Since early July, there have been indications that consumption of cantaloupes is causing health problems again. Last year at this time, it was Listeria monocytogenes in Cantaloupes which caused 30 deaths in the U.S. This year, it is Salmonella, and as of August 22, there have been 178 persons sickened, 62 hospitalizations and 2 deaths resulting from people consuming contaminated cantaloupes.
Chamberlain Farms in southwestern Indiana has been identified as the farm which could be the source of the salmonella contamination, and according to owner Tim Chamberlain, their farm stopped selling the cantaloupes August 16 as soon as they were informed they could be the source of contamination and have voluntarily notified all purchasers who have agreed to remove any of Chamberlain Farms cantaloupes from the marketplace. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration, the cantaloupes were being sold since June 21, 2012 to retail grocery stores in 4 southwestern Indiana counties and produce wholesalers in Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois and Iowa.
Salmonella can contaminate many kinds of foods, including meat, eggs, poultry, unpasteurized dairy products and juices, fruits (such as melon), nuts and spices. Salmonella causes diarrhea, cramps and fever and is hardest on infants, the elderly, those who are ill and who have compromised immune systems. According to the FDA’s recall notice, “In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.”
Tests to determine and confirm the strain (Typhimurium) of salmonella and the manner of contamination are ongoing. Consumers need to inquire about the source of the cantaloupes prior to purchasing and check the PLU stickers on fruit, consumers are also encouraged to throw out any cantaloupes of origin they cannot confirm. Consumers should not try to wash the harmful bacteria off the cantaloupe as contamination may be both on the inside and outside of the cantaloupe. Cutting, slicing and dicing may also transfer harmful bacteria from the fruit’s surface to the fruit’s flesh, so… When in doubt, please throw it out.