December 10, 2022

History of Food Poisoning Outbreaks Linked to Cantaloupe

In the latest update to the FDA‘s CORE Outbreak Investigation Table, that agency stated that a Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak that has ended is linked to cantaloupe. This is not the first time that this fruit has caused illnesses. What is the history of food poisoning outbreaks linked to cantaloupe?

History of Food Poisoning Outbreaks Linked to Cantaloupe

While the outbreak is over, the FDA says that more information is forthcoming. We do not know the case count by state, but there are at least 87 people who are sick. We also do not know the patient age ranges, or illness onset dates.

History of Food Poisoning Outbreaks Linked to Cantaloupe

There have been six other multistate food poisoning outbreaks since 2011 that were linked to cantaloupe. Many of these outbreaks were deadly.

Jensen Farms Listeria Outbreak

In 2011, a deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak was linked to Jensen Farm’s cantaloupe. At least 147 people in 28 states were sickened. There were 143 people hospitalized because they were so ill, and 33 people died. One women suffered a miscarriage. Ten other deaths not attributed to listeriosis occurred among people who had been infected with an outbreak-associated subtype. There were five subtypes of Listeria monocytogenes that matched patient isolates in this outbreak.

Officials found that the source of the outbreak was whole cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms’ production fields in Granada, Colorado. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found Listeria monocytogenes on cantaloupe samples collected from grocery stores and from ill persons homes. Officials determined that these cantaloupes came from Jensen Farms. In addition, Listeria monocytogenes samples were isolated from equipment and cantaloupe at the Jensen Farms’ packaging facility.

The government found that there were multiple problems at the packing facility, such as the use of equipment that was difficult to clean and water pooling near that equipment. The equipment had previously been used to clean potatoes. There was visible dirt and product build-up on parts. Also, the company did not pre-cool the cantaloupe before putting it into cold storage, which can allow condensation to firm on the rind, creating ideal conditions for the growth of Listeria bacteria.

Salmonella Panama Outbreak Linked to Cantaloupe

Also in 2011, a Salmonella Panama outbreak was linked to cantaloupe. At least 20 people in 10 states were sickened with the outbreak strain. Three people were hospitalized. Twelve of the sixteen people interviewed said they ate cantaloupe the week before they got sick. The cantaloupes were harvested from a single farm in Guatemala.

Chamberlain Farms Cantaloupe Salmonella Typhimurium and Newport Outbreak

In 2012, a deadly Salmonella Typhimurium and Newport outbreak linked to cantaloupe grown in Indiana sickened at least 261 people in 24 states. Ninety-four people were hospitalized and three people died.

The cantaloupe was grown at Chamberlain Farms Produce in Owensville, Indiana.  Laboratory testing conducted by the Kentucky Division of Laboratory Services found the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium on two cantaloupes purchased from a retail location in Kentucky; traceback identified them as coming from Chamberlain Farms. And samples collected from the fruit at Chamberlain Farms showed the outbreak strain of Salmonella.

The FDA also collected and tested cantaloupes for Salmonella Newport and one of the samples matched the outbreak strain.

Cantaloupe Salmonella Outbreak in Washington and Oregon

In 2017, a Salmonella outbreak in Washington and Oregon sickened at least 18 people. This outbreak was linked to precut cantaloupe, watermelon, or fruit mixes that contained both of those fruits.

Cut fruit is often a possible source of pathogenic bacteria, since bacteria on the surface of produce can migrate to the interior when it is cut. If the rind is not thoroughly cleaned first, or if the fruit is not refrigerated, bacteria can grow.

Caito Melon Salmonella Carrau Outbreak

In 2019, a Salmonella Carrau outbreak was linked to Caito precut melons. At least 137 people in 10 states were sickened, and 38 people were hospitalized.

Epidemiological and traceback evidence found that Caito Foods products were the likely source of this outbreak. The company recalled precut watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe dn precut fruit medley products that was produced at their felicity in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Tailor Cut Produce Salmonella Outbreak

In 2020, a Salmonella Javiana outbreak was linked to Tailor Cut fruit mix called Fruit Luau. The mix contained grapes, cut honeydew, cut cantaloupe, and cut pineapple. At least 165 people in 14 states were sickened in that outbreak. Seventy-three people were hospitalized.

Tailor Cut recalled that fruit mix, as well as cut cantaloupe, honeydew, and pineapple for possible Salmonella contamination. While Tailor Cut was identified as the common processor, the source of the contamination was not identified. Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicated that the fruit produced by Tailor Cut was the likely source of this outbreak.

How to Protect Yourself

Because the webbed rind on cantaloupe has so many pockets and crenelations, the fruit can be difficult to wash. If you buy whole cantaloupes, always clean it by scrubbing the rind with a clean produce brush under running water before cutting it. You may want to dip the fruit briefly in hot water to kill as many pathogens as possible.

If you buy cut cantaloupe or other fruits, make sure they have been adequately stored at a temperature below 40°F before  you purchase them. And keep those products in the refrigerator to help reduce the growth of bacteria.

But remember that Listeria monocytogenes bacteria grow at refrigerator temperatures. If you or a member of your family is in a high risk group for serious complications from this and other pathogens, which include the very young, the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone with a chronic health condition, consider not purchasing precut fruits.

Attorneys at the Pritzker Hageman Food Safety Law Firm

If you have been diagnosed with a Salmonella Typhimurium infection after eating cantaloupe, please contact our experienced attorneys for help with a possible lawsuit at 1-888-377-8900 or text us at 612-261-0856. Our firm represents clients in lawsuits against grocery stores, restaurants, and food processors.

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