September 14, 2012 — Chamberlain Farms, the company linked to a deadly outbreak of salmonella in cantaloupes, has announced a voluntary recall of watermelons. Tim Chamberlain, owner of the farms, announced the recall after he was informed that the produce tested positive for the same strain of salmonella linked to the cantaloupe outbreak. The company is still working with investigators from state and federal health departments to locate the source of the outbreak. The watermelons have not been linked to any illnesses.
In a statement, the company said “We are continuing to cooperate fully with authorities at the FDA and the Indiana State Department of Health to determine the full facts about the source of the salmonella found on our watermelon,” the statement said.
Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found salmonella on the watermelons. Cantaloupes on the farm were contaminated with the same strain. That outbreak sickened at least 204 people in 22 states. Two people died and 78 were hospitalized.
The CDC also said that the strain of salmonella was linked to an outbreak in live poultry, which caused at least 163 people to become ill in 26 states.
The grocery chain Schnucks, which sold the watermelons, said they have removed the contaminated produce from store shelves. Chamberlain Farms has not identified any other companies that may have received the watermelons.
Although the watermelons may have been contaminated, they are less likely to transmit salmonella to a person because they have smooth rinds. Cantaloupes, on the other hand, have a bumpy and porous rind that can easily hide soil and bacteria that is difficult to remove. When a customer uses a knife to slice open the produce, the knife can transfer bacteria from the outside of the melon to the interior, which is then eaten, causing illness.
Salmonella causes an illness called salmonellosis, a severe type of gastrointestinal food poisoning. The characteristic symptoms are sudden diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps, headaches, muscle aches, and fever. These symptoms typically last about seven days. The illness is not usually life-threatening for a healthy adult, but salmonellosis can be deadly for infants, the elderly, fetuses of pregnant women, and people with a vulnerable immune system.
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