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Food Safety Focus (64th Issue, November 2011) – Food Incident Highlight

Listeria monocytogenes in Cantaloupe

Since late July, there have been outbreaks of Listeria monocytogenes infection in the United States causing severe illness and some deaths among the elderly. Whole cantaloupes were reported to link to the infection.

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium commonly found in soil and water. It can be easily destroyed at normal cooking temperature but can survive and multiply at temperature as low as –0.4oC. Although healthy people develop few or no symptoms when infected, Listeria monocytogenes could be dangerous to pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and people with low immunity.

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) has alerted the trade and followed up the incident with the U.S. authorities. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the farm of concern, there was no known export of the affected cantaloupe to Hong Kong.

Melons, such as cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew, have been associated with a number of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses with a large number being caused by Salmonella. The CFS advises consumers to wash and scrub whole melons with a clean produce brush under running water before cutting.