July 17, 2024

History of Outbreaks Linked to Precut Melon is Long

The Salmonella Tailor Cut precut melon outbreak is still going on, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 96 people in 11 states are sick, as of the last update almost a month ago. Twenty-seven people have been hospitalized because they are so sick, and some recalls have been issued.

History of Outbreaks Linked to Precut Melon is Long

How many multistate food poisoning outbreaks have been linked to precut melon? After all, not many people associate fresh fruit with food poisoning. Unfortunately, the list is long. Fruit can be contaminated with pathogens in many ways, including during the growing season, during harvest, and during processing.

These are the most recent food poisoning outbreaks linked to precut melon:

  • Salmonella Javiana outbreak linked to Tailor Cut Melon. This outbreak has sickened 26 schoolchildren living in New Castle County, Delaware, as well as dozens around the country. In all, at least 96 people in 11 states are sick. The fruit was sold to institutions, which means that people ate the fruit in hospitals, hotels, schools, and long term care facilities.
  • In 2019, a Salmonella Carrau outbreak was linked to Caito precut melon.  In that outbreak, 137 people in 10 states were sickened, and 38 were hospitalized. Precut melons purchased at grocery stores, as well as fruit salad mixes and fruit trays were implicated in this outbreak.
  • In 2018, a Salmonella Adelaide outbreak was linked to precut melon. Caito Foods voluntarily recalled fruit salad mixes that contained these melons after the CDC concluded those products were the likely source of the outbreak. At least 77 people in 9 states were sickened.

Melons seem to be more likely to be contaminated than other types of fruit for several reasons. First, the fruit grows directly on the ground, where it can come into contact with bacteria and other pathogens. Second, the deeply crenelated skin and webbing are ideal places for pathogens to hide.

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Some pathogens can actually form a biofilm over their colony, which protects the bacteria from cleaning solutions. The melon skin helps protect the bacteria as well.

Then, when the fruit is cut, the bacteria on the surface can easily enter the flesh. And these products do not have a kill step where they are heated to a high enough temperature to kill pathogens, so anyone who eats the contaminated fruit can get sick.

You can prepare melons safely. And it may be a good idea for people in high risk groups for food poisoning complications to prepare their own produce including melons instead of buying precut and prepared fruits and vegetables.  And stay alert for recall and outbreak notices so you can protect yourself and your family.

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