April 20, 2014

Recalled Cantaloupes Are Caribbean Gold Not Athena, How To Tell The Difference

Recalled cantaloupes from Burch Equipment in North Carolina are the Caribbean Gold variety, not Athena, as previously announced. So what’s the difference?

When most people think of cantaloupes, they probably picture western style melons. They are round, have a greenish hue and thick, netted skins. When they are cut open, the seeds will appear closely clustered in a compact area in the middle of the melon. Caribbean Gold cantaloupes are a western style and that is the variety being recalled, Larry Burch, owner of Burch Equipment LLC, told food Poisoning Bulletin today.

In the initial recall on July 28, the cantaloupes were erroneously identified as the Athena variety. Athena cantaloupes are large, ribbed, football shaped melons that have a bright yellow cast to their skins which are much thinner than western style melons, Burch said. When cut open, the  seeds will be more loosely gathered in an elongated pocket, Burch said. Athena melons are known for and grown for their sweet taste, but because of their thin skins, they don’t travel well, he said, and therefore don’t frequently populate grocery store shelves. Consumers are much more likely to see these melons at roadside stands or farmers markets.

Burch said 95 percent of the melons he grows are Caribbean Gold. When asked how he thought the mistake in reporting the variety came about, Burch said Food Lion grocery stores may have made the mistake as they sell Caribbean Gold melons in their stores but call them Athena. (The recall announcement dated August 3 on the Food Lion website still erroneously identifies the melons as Athena.)

Burch is recalling 14,468 cases of Caribbean Gold cantaloupes for possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, a foodborne pathogen that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems. Among pregnant women, Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. Symptoms include fever, headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

The whole cantaloupes were shipped between July 15th and July 27th and distributed in FL, GA, IL, MD, ME, NC, NJ, NY, PA, SC and VA.  The melons have a red label bearing the PLU # 4319. No illnesses have been  reported in conjunction with this recall.

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