Cantaloupes: so juicy, so delicious, and so susceptible to stowaway pathogens with their craggy pitted rinds. This month finds officials dealing with an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium in Indiana, Kentucky, and Minnesota. When we last visited this story, there had been 150 reported cases and two deaths resulting from the outbreak; the source of the outbreak itself, on the other hand, was still under investigation. Today, the case count is up to 178, with 62 hospitalizations, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has officially named Chamberlain Farms in Owensville, Indiana, as the outbreak’s ground zero.
Food Safety News reports that the FDA made the decision to name the farm in response to heavy criticism for withholding information from the public. Even so, the FDA’s announcement is relatively mild, stating that “[the] farm’s cantaloupe may be one source of contamination in multi-state outbreak of salmonellosis” on account of the fact that they’re still confirming that there isn’t another outbreak source out there.
Also in the FDA’s announcement are details of where the cantaloupes were originally shipped – not just Indiana and Kentucky, but also Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin with possible further distribution beyond that – as well as what they and Chamberlain Farms are doing to combat the problem:
After officials from the FDA and the state of Indiana briefed Chamberlain Farms on the current status of the investigation, Chamberlain Farms made the decision to recall its cantaloupe from the market place.
Earlier Chamberlain Farms had agreed to withdraw the cantaloupe from the market, and to cease distributing cantaloupes for the rest of the growing season. However, the decision to formally recall the product will facilitate removal of the product from the market and ensure the widest possible awareness of this action.
The investigation into this outbreak continues, in order to determine whether there are other possible sources. FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) network is working directly with the FDA field offices, the CDC and state and local agencies on this incident and will continue to update the public appropriately.
Consumers are still being advised to check with their retailer about where any cantaloupes they’ve recently purchased were grown. Another important warning is for consumers not to think that washing the cantaloupe will solve the problem, since a cantaloupe’s very nature makes it near impossible to fully get rid of pathogens that can then be transferred from the surface to the flesh with every knife cut. As the FDA puts it: “when in doubt, throw it out.” Take note.