FDA Identifies Cantaloupe Farm in Salmonella Outbreak, Issues Recall

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) just identified the cantaloupe farm believed to be the possible origin of the ongoing Salmonella outbreak and announced a recall of the involved produce.

Tim Chamberlain of Chamberlain Farms in Owensville, Indiana, said he voluntarily stopped production on August 16, adding that he has had no other issues at its farm since it opened in 1982, said the Associated Press (AP). The agency advised Chamberlain Farms on August 16 that his cantaloupes posed a potential health risk. According to Chamberlain, he is not aware of the what caused the outbreak and said his farm is waiting further instruction from government agencies.

FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess told the AP that Chamberlain Farms may not be the only outbreak source, adding that the investigation is ongoing. FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) network is collaborating with FDA field offices, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local agencies to determine if other possible sources of contamination exist.

To date, the Salmonella Tymphimurium outbreak has impacted at least 21 states and has been associated with 178 illnesses; 62 hospitalizations; and two deaths, which were reported from Kentucky. The FDA warns consumers against eating the cantaloupe, to discard any cantaloupe from Chamberlain Farms, and to speak to their retailers to determine if their cantaloupe was grown on Chamberlain Farms in Owensville, Indiana. Current records indicate that Chamberlain Farms’ cantaloupe was initially shipped to the following states, said the agency: Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Further shipment was likely.

Officials from the FDA, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the state of Indiana recently briefed Chamberlain Farms on the status of the investigation; Chamberlain Farms then issued a recall of its cantaloupe from the market following its decision to withdraw the fruit from the market and to stop distributing cantaloupes for the remainder of the growing season. Implementation of the recall will help remove the cantaloupe from the market and ensure the broadest awareness.

Regulators had not released the name of the farm involved. Burgess told Fox News, “We want to be sure….  We don’t want to falsely or prematurely name someone.” 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 Colorado’s Jensen Farms 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.

The CDC said that early results of antibiotic susceptibility testing indicate that the strain of Salmonella Typhimurium connected to this outbreak is susceptible to commonly used antibiotics and said no links exist between this outbreak and last year’s multi-state outbreak of Listeriosis connected with Jensen Farms’ whole cantaloupes.

If consumers believe they are in possession of the recalled cantaloupe, they are advised against washing Salmonella off of the fruit; Salmonella may be on both the skin and inside of the cantaloupe. Cutting, slicing and dicing the fruit may also transfer harmful bacteria from the surface of the cantaloupe into its flesh. The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1.888.SAFEFOOD, toll-free, or consult it website at www.fda.gov.

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