Salmonella Outbreak from Cantaloupe Prompts Recall

<"">Salmonella tainted cantaloupes have been blamed for an outbreak of food poisoning that spans 16 states and several Canadian provinces, prompting the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a warning for cantaloupes imported from Honduras.  In addition, the Dole Fresh Fruit Company has recalled cantaloupes it purchased from a grower in Costa Rica because those cantaloupes have tested positive for Salmonella as well.

According to the FDA,  cantaloupes imported from Honduras by the company Agropecuaria Montelibano have left 50 people ill with Salmonella poisoning.  While no deaths have been reported as a result of the Salmonella tainted cantaloupes, 14 victims have required hospitalization.  In the US, the cantaloupe Salmonella poisoning has been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.  In Canada, Salmonella from the cantaloupes has been seen in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.  

The FDA is warning wholesalers, grocers and consumers who purchased Agropecuaria Montelibano cantaloupes to discard them at once, and the agency has ordered that the company’s cantaloupe imports be detained at the border for further testing. Consumers who have purchased cantaloupe should check with their grocer to see if the fruit was imported by Agropecuaria Montelibano.

The Dole Fruit Company has also announced a recall of cantaloupes purchased from a third party grower in Costa Rica.  These cantaloupes have tested positive for Salmonella, although no illnesses have been reported. According to Dole, approximately 6,104 cartons of cantaloupes were distributed to wholesalers in regions of the eastern US and Quebec between February 5 and February 8, 2007. The cantaloupes were distributed for sale in bulk in cardboard cartons, with 9, 12 or 15 cantaloupes to a carton. The recalled cartons of cantaloupes are dark brown with “Dole Cantaloupes” in red lettering.  They have a thirteen-digit number on a white tag pasted to the carton; the tenth digit is a 2. Consumers with additional questions should contact the Dole Consumer Center at (800) 232-8888.

The FDA is also  recommending that consumers take the following steps to reduce the risk of contracting Salmonella or other foodborne illnesses from cantaloupes:

  • Purchase cantaloupes that are not bruised or damaged. If buying fresh-cut cantaloupe, be sure it is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
  • After purchase, refrigerate cantaloupes promptly.
  • Wash hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling fresh cantaloupes.
  • Scrub whole cantaloupes by using a clean produce brush and cool tap water immediately before eating. Don’t use soap or detergents.
  • Use clean cutting surfaces and utensils when cutting cantaloupes. Wash cutting boards, countertops, dishes, and utensils with hot water and soap between the preparation of raw meat, poultry, or seafood and the preparation of cantaloupe.
  • If there happens to be a bruised or damaged area on a cantaloupe, cut away those parts before eating it.
  • Leftover cut cantaloupe should be discarded if left at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Use a cooler with ice or use ice gel packs when transporting or storing cantaloupes outdoors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Salmonella bacteria sicken 40,000 people every year. Although the true number could be much higher, because it is estimated that for every case of Salmonella poisoning reported, two others are unreported.  Salmonella causes fever, abdominal pain, nausea, gas and bloody diarrhea. Symptoms appear within 36 hours of exposure, and usually last four to seven days. In very severe cases, Salmonella can lead to kidney failure and other complications. Salmonella can be particularly dangerous for children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. In rare cases, Salmonella can cause a disease called Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult- to- treat condition that causes severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.

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