August 20, 2012 — A deadly outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium has been linked to cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have published an announcement linking 141 illnesses, two deaths, and 31 hospitalizations to the cantaloupe Salmonella outbreak.
Health experts are recommending the immediate disposal of any cantaloupes purchased in Kentucky or Indiana. The farm responsible for the outbreak has recalled their produce, and most major grocery stores around the nation are reassuring their customers that the tainted melons are no longer on store shelves.
The first illnesses were traced back to early July. As the CDC raced to identify the source of the outbreak, 18 of 24 people who were interviewed reported eating cantaloupe in the past week. The source of the outbreak may be one farm in Indiana, and they have agreed to stop selling cantaloupes for the rest of the season.
According to the FDA, the number of ill people in each state is as follows:
Alabama (7), Arkansas (3), California (2), Georgia (1), Illinois (17), Indiana (13), Iowa (7), Kentucky (50), Michigan (6), Minnesota (3), Missouri (9), Mississippi (2), New Jersey (1), North Carolina (3), Ohio (3), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (6), Texas (1), and Wisconsin (2).
Most of the serious illnesses occurred in Kentucky, where a total of 31 people were hospitalized and two people died in connection with the cantaloupe Salmonella outbreak.
People who have recently consumed cantaloupe should be on the lookout for symptoms of cantaloupe salmonella food poisoning, which may begin 12-72 hours after eating contaminated produce. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and more. Healthy adults usually recover within a week, but in some cases, Salmonella poisoning can be deadly — especially for children, the elderly, pregnant women, or people who have weak immune systems. Every year, the CDC estimates that 400 people die from Salmonella poisoning in the United States.
Cantaloupes were linked to another massive outbreak of food poisoning in 2011. That outbreak involved the Listeria bacteria, which also causes severe gastrointestinal illness. The outbreak was traced to a farm in Colorado — 139 people in 20 states became ill, and 29 died.
Food safety experts say that cantaloupes are susceptible to bacterial contamination because of their porous skin. They are grown on the ground, in fields that can become contaminated when sloppy agricultural practices allow run-off from nearby livestock fields. The melons are difficult to clean during processing or by customers. When they are cut open, a knife can easily transfer bacteria from the skin of the melon to the inner fruit, which is eaten raw.
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