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Food Safety Focus (22nd Issue, May 2008) – Food Incident Highlight

Cantaloupes and Salmonella

In late March 2008, the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) released an import alert and detained cantaloupes produced by a company in Honduras . The FDA believed that the fruit from this company appears to be associated with a Salmonella Litchfield outbreak in the United States and Canada . Similar incidents had been reported a number of times in the US and Canada .

Salmonella is a group of bacteria that can be found in the intestine of humans as well as wild and domestic animals (including poultry, pigs and pets like dogs, cats and reptiles). A number of Salmonella species can cause food poisoning in humans. The symptoms include nausea, fever, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting, which are more severe in infants and the elderly.

Cantaloupe has a rough rind and its surface may easily be contaminated in the field by soil, unclean irrigation water, animal droppings or unclean water during post-harvest wash. Therefore, it is important to scrub the cantaloupe with a clean brush (used only for produce) under running water before cutting in order to prevent Salmonella from contaminating the flesh.

Illustration: Cleaning cantaloupe by scrubbing under running water