A consumer group is demanding the name of the cantaloupe farm tied to an ongoing and growing Salmonella outbreak be released. As we wrote earlier this week, a new Salmonella outbreak was linked to contaminated cantaloupes associated with two deaths and 141 illnesses. The southwestern Indiana farm, which remains unnamed, said it was removing its cantaloupes from the stream of commerce. At least 20 states have been impacted and at least 31 people have been hospitalized.
Now, food safety advocates are urging federal officials to name the farm, saying people have a right to this information, said Fox News. Advocates are also asking for details on the cantaloupe distribution network to help better ensure consumers can be protected.
Barbara Kowalcyk, chief executive officer of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention, said that health officials try to exercise care and not point blame when food borne investigations are in their early stages to ensure that farms, food manufacturers, and others who might not be involved, are not harmed. Kowalcyk told Fox News that, despite this, she and her group believe it is important to release critical information “in a timely manner,” adding that, “When you have people who are getting sick and hospitalized and even dying, in my opinion as a consumer advocate, that takes precedence…. You need to give people the information they need to make informed decisions for their families.”
Indiana health officials and the FDA have advised consumers to discard cantaloupe that may be southwestern Indiana. Also, as we’ve mentioned, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised retailers and food service operators not to sell or serve cantaloupe grown from this area and advised that it and the FDA are collaborating with state partners during the continuing investigation.
The state’s advisory said a farm in that region of Indiana, where most of the state’s cantaloupes and melons are grown, voluntarily recalled its cantaloupes and stopped shipping them as a “precaution,” said Fox News. Officials say additional information will not be released as the investigation, being led by the FDA, is not complete.
According to FDA spokeswoman Shelly L. Burgess, until investigators confirm the Salmonella source(s), it will not release the name of any potentially involved farm. “We want to be sure,” she told Fox News. “We don’t want to falsely or prematurely name someone.” Amy Reel, an Indiana State Department of Health spokeswoman, told Fox News that test results from samples taken from the suspected farm are expected early next week, but noted that other sources are being looked at, “including a number of farms, retailers and distributors.”
Fox News pointed out that when a farm is identified as the source of an outbreak, that information can put a farm out of business, noting that Jensen Farms in Colorado filed for bankruptcy after its melons were linked to a Listeria outbreak that killed 30 people in 2011. Jensen owner, Eric Jensen, faces a number of lawsuits over the matter. Now, some cantaloupe farmers say they are seeing their wholesale customers canceling orders since the advisory was issued, said Fox News.
The CDC advised that consumers may continue to purchase and eat cantaloupes that did not originate in southwestern Indiana, noting that many cantaloupes bear stickers indicating the growing area. If a sticker is not present, consumers should speak to the retailer about the produce’s source and, if in doubt, discard the produce. The CDC also said that early results of antibiotic susceptibility testing indicate that the strain of Salmonella Typhimurium connected to the current outbreak is susceptible to commonly used antibiotics and points out that there are no links between this outbreak and last year’s multi-state outbreak of Listeriosis connected with whole cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, Colorado.