A salmonella outbreak has again been reported in the United States, this time linked to a summer treat: fresh cut melon.
At least 60 people have been infected with a strain of salmonella that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe is related to a food processing facility in Indiana.
“Fresh cut watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and fresh-cut fruit medley products,” are among the voluntarily recalled items from the Caito Foods facility.
They were sold at popular grocery stores, including Costco, Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, and Whole Foods/Amazon.
This marks the fourth major foodborne outbreak in recent months with a deadly E.coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce and another salmonella outbreak linked to eggs. And today the Kellogg company announced they are voluntarily recalling certain boxes of "Honey Smacks" cereal over concerns the product may contain salmonella bacteria.
Do you have to give up melon?
Nope, you can still enjoy this healthy treat. But if you’re getting pre-cut melon, make sure it’s not part of the recall.
If you’re not sure if the melon you bought is safe, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a full list here of the items that are currently being recalled.
If any of these items are in your fridge, you should throw them out immediately.
Whole melons weren’t part of this recall, so don’t worry if you have a whole watermelon on your kitchen counter.
Who’s at risk?
In general, people with compromised immune systems, as well as pregnant women, young children, and the elderly are more at risk for bacterial infections.
In this outbreak, those infected ranged in age from 1 to 97 with a median age of 67.
Of the 47 people with information available, the CDC reported that 66 percent have been hospitalized.
No deaths have been linked to the outbreak.
How do you know if you have salmonella?
Symptoms of salmonella include:
- abdominal cramps
In severe cases, the salmonella bacteria can infect the bloodstream, which can lead to a fatal infection if not treated immediately.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee, said if you have any salmonella symptoms you should go to your doctor to get checked out.
“Go see your doctor and tell them if you’ve eaten any watermelon, honey dew, [or] cantaloupe,” he said. “Let them know about it so they can do the appropriate cultures.”
Schaffner also said going and talking to your doctor is key because most people blame the last thing they ate for food poisoning.
However, it can take days for salmonella symptoms to appear.
“That’s a common misperception and particularly with salmonella. It can be 48 to 72 hours later,” he said. “It’s not likely to be your breakfast or the last lunch you had.”
What does this mean for your picnic?
If you’re heading to a picnic or barbeque this summer, be sure to be mindful of food safety.
If you’re at a potluck and not sure where the melon in the fruit salad is from, you should probably avoid it.
In general, Schaffner said people need to be mindful of food safety during these events and “wash their hands constantly.”
He also said people should keep in mind that food shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for long.
“What’s not good is everyone going to the picnic and leaving the food sitting on the table for three and half hours and then eating it,” Schaffner said.
He recommended keeping food in coolers until it’s time to eat it or put it on the grill.
Schaffner pointed out that if the food had been contaminated from the beginning, or if it was contaminated during preparation, bacteria can grow quickly within a few hours.
“The food will look fine and you can still get sick,” he said.