October 20, 2019

History of Melon Outbreaks Is Long and Deadly

The Salmonella Carrau outbreak just announced by the CDC that is linked to precut melons produced by Caito Foods has sickened at least 93 people. This is not the first time that melons have caused food poisoning outbreaks in the United States. In fact, the history of melon outbreaks is long. Since 1985, there have been 1,520 illnesses, 297 hospitalizations, and 36 deaths linked to contaminated melon. Most of these outbreaks were linked to cantaloupes. One of the big problems with contamination on ready-to-eat foods is that there is no "kill step" before the food is eaten. That means the consumer does not heat the product, which would destroy pathogens. There is zero tolerance for Listeria monocytogenes contamination on ready-to-eat foods, but no such law exists for … [Read more...]

Steam Makes Melons Safer

After the huge and deadly Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Jensen Farms cantaloupes in 2011, scientists and researchers have been trying to find ways to make this product safer. The heavily webbed surface of melons is perfect for bacteria to hide and thrive. In that outbreak linked to melons, 147 people in 28 states were sickened, including seven pregnant women. One woman suffered a miscarriage, and three infants were born with listeriosis. In total, 33 deaths from outbreak-associated listeriosis in this outbreak were reported to the CDC.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment isolated Listeria monocytogenes bacteria from cantaloupe samples collected from grocery stores and from ill persons' homes. And the FDA isolated Listeria monocytogenes outbreak … [Read more...]

Farm to Fork Project Looks at Pathogen Transfer on Surfaces

A new study focusing on contact surface transfer of pathogens is halfway through its two year timeline. The research is being conducted at Virginia Tech. Dr. Laura Strawn, a produce safety Extension Specialist at that University is leading the project, along with Dr. Ben Chapman at NCSU and Dr. Michelle Danyluk at the University of Florida in Lake Alfred. The project is being funded by the Center for Produce Safety. Their research is looking at potential pathogen contamination of cantaloupe in the food chain. The study is focusing on Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes transfer. Back in 2011, a huge Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Jensen Farms cantaloupe sickened 147 people and killed 30 in 28 states. Seven pregnant women were sickened in that outbreak. One woman … [Read more...]

Cantaloupe Farmers Pay Fraction of Restitution for Listeria Outbreak

The brothers who owned the Colorado cantaloupe farm linked to the 2011 Listeria monocytogenes outbreak that sickened 147 people, killed 35, and caused one miscarriage have paid a fraction of the restitution they were initially ordered to pay. Eric and Ryan Jensen, both of Holly Colorado, pleaded guilty in October 2013 to introducing cantaloupe contaminated with Listeria to the marketplace and were ordered to pay $300,000 in restitution to victims who lost money because of the outbreak. Those who lost money in connection with the outbreak on medical bills, attorneys fees or funeral expenses and were seeking restitution were to have submitted an account to the court by a deadline last week. Only three people did. Their statements, for $7,624, $4,644 and $916, totaled $13,184. Many of the … [Read more...]

Cantaloupe Recalled for Possible Listeria, Again

Heeren Brothers Produce in Grand Rapids, Michigan is recalling 5,400 Athena cantaloupes that were obtained from an unidentified supplier and distributed to local independent grocers for possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Routine sampling by the FDA found the pathogenic bacteria. There have been no reports of illness to date connected with the consumption of the fruit. The cantaloupes were distributed between July 23 and July 26, 2013 according to The Packer. Heeren Brothers Produce issued a recall statement today. The cantaloupes do not have identifying stickers. The company announcement says, "after receiving notice from the FDA, Heeren Brothers Produce immediately alerted retailers and requested that they remove the produce from their shelves." If you have purchased … [Read more...]

After Listeria Outbreak, CA Cantaloupe Growers Began Mandatory Food Safety Program

The cantaloupe that caused the deadly Listeria outbreak of 2011, wasn't grown in California, but that outbreak prompted California growers to develop a mandatory food safety program that was in effect during this year's growing season.  Although California produces 75 percent of all cantaloupes sold in the U.S., there has never been a foodborne illness outbreak associated cantaloupe grown in California, and the growers there want consumers to know that they are trying hared to keep it that way. “Beginning this year, California cantaloupe farmers and shippers of all sizes will be operating under the only mandatory food safety program that requires government audits of all cantaloupe production activities,” said Steve Patricio, a California melon producer and chairman of the California … [Read more...]

FDA Assesses Causes of 2012 Salmonella Outbreak

The FDA has released an assessment factors that potentially contributed to the 2012 cantaloupe Salmonella outbreak linked to Chamberlain Farms in Indiana. The outbreak, which was announced in August, sickened 261 people in 24 states. Ninety four people were hospitalized, three of them died. Two stains of Salmonella were involved in the outbreak. A total of 228 people were sickened by Salmonella Typhimurium, and 33 were sickened by Salmonella Newport. The FDA took environmental samples of soil, wild animal excreta, well water, pooling water on field perimeters, drainage ditch water, and cantaloupe. Salmonella was found in soil samples taken form all four growing areas, in the packing house and on equipment. To see details of the FDA’s findings click here. Based on the findings … [Read more...]

FDA To Cantaloupe Growers: Prepare To Be Inspected

After two major food poisoning outbreaks in two years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is urging the cantaloupe growers to review their practices and to make sure they are doing all they can to prevent dangerous pathogens form contaminating their melons. In a letter to growers, the agency is also telling growers it will be conducting inspections of some operations to make sure these efforts have been made. Combined, the cantaloupe Listeria outbreak of 2011 and the cantaloupe Salmonella outbreak of 2012 sickened more than 400 people. Thirty six people died.  In both outbreaks, investigators discovered unsanitary conditions in the packinghouses. “Due to our observations at cantaloupe packinghouses, we urge the cantaloupe industry to review its current operations in the … [Read more...]

Food Poisoning Outbreaks Spawn Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Group

After back-to-back seasons of food poisoning outbreaks linked to tainted cantaloupes, growers in the eastern part of the country have formed a new association designed to improve food safety of melons and boost consumer confidence. Cantaloupe is grown differently in the east than it is in west, where the melons are grown in desert conditions. California cantaloupe growers, who pride themselves on never having been associated with an outbreak, have had their own association dedicated to best growing practices for a umber of years. Members of the newly formed Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Association must adhere to the growing and handling standards outlined in the document Commodity-Specific Guidelines for Cantaloupes and Netted Melons. They must also agree to submit to unannounced audits … [Read more...]

Salmonella Outbreak Wasn’t Our Fault Says Chamberlain Farms

A cantaloupe Salmonella outbreak that last summer caused 261 illnesses in 24 states and killed three people was linked months ago by federal authorities to Chamberlain Farms of Owensville, Ind. Now, the farm’s owners are saying: it’s not our fault. Earlier this week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made public a warning letter that it sent to Chamberlain Farms, outlining the problems discovered during a post-outbreak inspection of the farm, making recommendations to address the problems and giving a deadline for response. The agency sends warning letters in situations where problems discovered don’t have quick fixes. The warning letter to Chamberlain Farms re-stated previously published information: that environmental swabs taken from various locations in melon fields yielded … [Read more...]

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