60 sick: Multistate outbreak of Salmonella Adelaide infections linked to pre-cut melon

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports on June 8, 2018, Caito Foods, LLC recalled fresh cut watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and fresh-cut fruit medley products containing one of these melons produced at the Caito Foods facility in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Recalled products were distributed to Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Recalled products were sold in clear, plastic clamshell containers at Costco, Jay C, Kroger, Payless, Owen’s, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, and Whole Foods/Amazon.

The investigation is ongoing to determine if products went to additional stores or states.

Do not eat recalled products. Check your fridge and freezer for them and throw them away or return them to the place of purchase for a refund.

If you don’t remember where you bought pre-cut melon, don’t eat it and throw it away.

Retailers should not sell or serve recalled pre-cut melon products distributed by Caito Foods Distribution, Gordon Food Service, and SpartanNash Distribution.

CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Adelaide infections in five Midwestern states.

60 people infected with the outbreak strain have been reported.

31 people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic and preliminary traceback evidence indicates that pre-cut melon supplied by Caito Foods, LLC of Indianapolis, Indiana is a likely source of this multistate outbreak.

Most of the ill people reported eating pre-cut cantaloupe, watermelon, or a fruit salad mix with melon purchased from grocery stores.

Information collected from stores where ill people shopped indicates that Caito Foods, LLC supplied pre-cut melon to these stores.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from April 30, 2018, to May 28, 2018. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 97, with a median age of 67. Sixty-five percent are female. Out of 47 people with information available, 31 (66%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Illnesses that occurred after May 20, 2018, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of 2 to 4 weeks.

CDC will provide updates when more information is available.

A table of cantaloupe/rockmelon outbreaks is available at  http://www.barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Cantaloupe-Related-Outbreaks-3-8-18.xlsx.

6 dead, 13 sick: Where’s the details on Listeria-in-rockmelon?

As the sixth listeriosis death in Australia linked to rockmelon was reported on Tuesday, the silence from cantaloupe growers, packers, retailers and regulators has been deafening.

Listeria in cantaloupe has happened before.

(A table of rockmelon-related outbreaks is available here.)

Here are some basic questions:

  • was the farm prone to flooding and near any livestock operations;
  • what soil amendments, like manure, were used;
  • after harvest were the rockmelons placed in a dump tank;
  • was the water in the dump tank regularly monitored for chlorine levels;
  • did a proper handwashing program exist at the packing shed;
  • were conveyor belts cleaned and tested;
  • did condensation form on the ceiling of the packing shed;
  • were transportation vehicles properly cooled and monitored;
  • was the Listeria in whole cantaloupe or pre-cut; and,
  • was the rockmelon stored at proper temperatures at retail?

I’m just spit-balling here, but these are basic questions that need to be answered before any dreams of regaining consumer confidence can be entertained.

Fifth person dies in Australia’s rockmelon listeria outbreak

An elderly man has died and a woman has miscarried as a result of the nationwide listeria outbreak, which has been linked to contaminated rockmelon.

Amy McNeilage of The Guardian reports the Victorian man in his 80s was the fifth person to die as a result of the outbreak.

The source of the outbreak has been traced to Rombola Family Farms in the Riverina region of NSW, according to authorities.

There have been at least 17 confirmed cases of listeria linked to the contaminated rockmelon, including two deaths in NSW and three in Victoria.

Victoria’s deputy chief health officer, Dr Brett Sutton, said all people affected so far ate the rockmelon before the national recall on 28 February. The latest cases have been linked to the outbreak through microbiological testing.

A miscarriage in Victoria was also linked to the outbreak, and a total 19 people – including those who died – had been affected across the country.

Identifying farm does nothing: What are normal practices on rockmelon farms to ensure microbial food safety confidence?

ABC news reports the rockmelon farm at the centre of the deadly listeria outbreak has been revealed as Rombola Family Farms, authorities have confirmed.

The NSW Food Authority said it was working closely with the farm, located in the NSW Riverina, to determine the exact cause of the outbreak.

Four people died and there have been 17 confirmed cases of listeriosis nationally, linked to the contaminated rockmelons.

That sucks, but the industry has been silent about steps it takes to minimize bugs like Listeria.

It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.

Salmonella, Listeria, people dead, the outbreaks are relatively common in a way they shouldn’t be.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Food Authority said, pending the results of its investigation into the incident, it may implement additional regulation to the rockmelon industry to ensure compliance with food safety.

If the industry relies on government to set minimal standards, it’s going down the road of the Pinto defense: Meets all government standards, still kills people.

Rockmelon growers are the ones who are going to lose – bureaucrats will still have their salaries and supers – and rockmelon growers need to step up.

Only as good as your worst supplier: Rockmelon growers in Australia suffering through outbreak (so are the sick and the families of the 4 dead)

I was wrong.

When I said Australia is about 20 years behind North America in micro food safety terms, I really meant 40, because that’s when the Brisbane-raised Bee Gees were on the charts with Saturday Night Fever.

When it comes to public disclosure and on-farm food safety of fresh produce, Australia is only 20 years behind North America.

It was 1998 when I and many in my lab started working on this problem.

What I soon realized is that government doesn’t give a shit. As sales of an implicated commodity collapse because of a real or imagined outbreak of foodborne illness, the bureaucrats keep their jobs.

Farms go bankrupt.

With 4 dead and 17 sick from Listeria in rockmelon (cantaloupe), this notion has occurred to at least one Western Australian melon grower who is rightly pissed about the lack of information from government, growers, and anyone else.

Dane Capogreco, one of the directors of Capogreco Farms in Western Australia says the incident is an isolated case of “negligence” and the whole of the country’s melon industry should not be judged by the actions of one grower.

“The vast majority of growers are doing the right thing. One grower has done the wrong thing and the rest of us are paying the price.”

“It’s very concerning that the grower responsible (from the New South Wales Riverina region) hasn’t come forward to take action,” Mr Capogreco said. “He knew that he had it, and has destroyed the industry. I don’t believe it’s spreadable but it probably happened through the way he handled or washed the fruit post-harvest”

“It (previously) was very good – Australia had a good name. We have a clean, green product. We can’t compete on price alone, but we sell on trust because of our name. Now one guy has set us back a long way.”

He added that his company’s test results are on their website.

That’s a good claim, and something I’ve endorsed for 20 years, but a visit to the website found no such data available, just an eternal circle click.

Something about throwing stones from glass houses.

And again, the Colorado farm in the 2011 Listeria in cantaloupe that killed 33 and sickened at least 140 people in 26 states received a score of 96% in a third-party audit completed by Primus Labs only six days prior to the first reported illness.

Growers, take microbial food safety into your own hands (literally) and be able to prove your product is safe.

Retailers, market microbial food safety at retail.

Then consumers can choose.

(Me and the ex saw the Dead perform these two songs, pretty much exactly as shown, north of Toronto in 1987 with a six-week old kid, who will turn 31 later this year. I still get goosebumps from their rendition of Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away)

4 dead, 13 sick from Listeria-in-cantaloupes: The public conversation is lame

I’ve always believed in don’t complain, create.

When I didn’t like the university newspaper I was editor of, I created my own (along with others).

When I didn’t like my higher education, I created my own path to a PhD.

I created my own professoring job (with lots of help from others) and have sorta done my own thing.

So while I’m somewhat beaten with the broken ribs, I still have some spirit.

With Listeria-in-cantaloupe spreading across Australia, I got excited and wrote an op-ed on Monday before lunch.

Amy edited, just like the old days, and I sent it off to the Sydney Morning Herald.

They said they were interested and then … nothing.

Today, with news of a fourth death and more illnesses, I asked again if they were interested.

Nothing.

That’s cool, I have a nostalgia for print and the smell of ink, and I have no doubt why print is vanishing.

That’s one reason why we made our own publishing outlet, barfblog.com, in 2005 because, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one” (A. J. Liebling).

Here’s the op-ed. And yes, PR flunkies should be paying me for this advice.

On Sept. 9, 2011, reports first surfaced of an outbreak of Listeria linked to cantaloupe – known as rock melons in Australia — grown in Colorado. Already two were dead and seven others sick.

By the end of the outbreak, 33 people were killed and at least 140 sickened.

On Aug. 17, 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced an outbreak of Salmonella linked to cantaloupe that ultimately killed three people and sickened 270 in 26 states.

In Australia, a fourth death has now been linked to the Listeria-in-rockmelon outbreak, and the number of sick people has risen to 13.

Already, an Australian rockmelon grower is saying “misinformation” about the listeria outbreak will have a negative impact on growers.

Rather than misinformation, there is a lack of information required to regain consumer confidence and trust.

Sadly, the number of dead and sick will probably grow, because Listeria has an incubation period of up to six weeks. The melon you ate five weeks ago could make you sick with listeriosis tomorrow.

This is not misinformation, it’s biology.

Australian media reports that the Listeria contamination is on the rockmelon surface but I have yet to see any verification of that statement. Under a microscope the exterior of a rockmelon looks like a lunar surface of hills and craters, a soft porous skin which microbes can easily cross.

Regardless of how careful a consumer is while cutting rockmelon, bacteria like Listeria, on the outside or inside, are going to be in the final product.

This means everything has to be done to reduce the risk of contamination beginning on the farm.

On a trip to the local Woolies this morning, I found no rockmelon, however some was available in fresh-cut mixed fruit packages. Shouldn’t those also have been pulled? I asked a stocker where the rockmelons were and he said there were none because of the recall. There was no information posted in the shelf-space that previously held rockmelon.

Us mere mortals, those who like rockmelon, have no information on the size of the farm involved in the outbreak, how often water was tested for dangerous bugs, what kind of soil amendments like manure may have been used, whether the melons went into a dump tank of water after harvest to clean them up, whether that water contained chlorine or some other anti-microbial and how often that water was tested, whether there was a rigorous employee handwashing program, whether the crates the melons were packed in were clean, whether melons were  transported at a cool temperature (won’t help with Listeria, it grows at 4 C), and so on.

These are the basic elements of any on-farm food safety program, which my laboratory started developing over 20 years ago for fresh produce in Canada.

These are the questions that need to be answered by any supplier of rockmelon before I would buy again.

The 2011 and 2012 U.S. outbreaks were the result of familiar factors to food safety types: seemingly minor issues synergistically combined to create ideal conditions for Listeria or Salmonella to contaminate, grow and spread on the cantaloupe. There was no overriding factor, and there is no magic solution, other than constant awareness and diligence to the microorganisms that surround us.

Eric Jensen, the fourth-generation produce grower at the centre of the 2011 Listeria-in-cantaloupe outbreak told a reporter once the outbreak was “something Mother Nature did. We didn’t have anything to do with it.”

I’ve yet to see divine intervention as a cause of foodborne illness. Instead, illnesses and outbreaks are frighteningly consistent in their underlying causes: a culmination of a small series of mistakes that, over time, results in illness and death. After-the-fact investigations usually conclude, why didn’t this happen earlier, with all the mistakes going on?

So while retailers ask themselves, why did we rely on such lousy food safety assurances, it would bolster consumer confidence if there was any public indication that Australian rockmelon growers had learned anything from past outbreaks, at home and abroad.

(A table of rockmelon-related outbreaks is availabe at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Cantaloupe-Related-Outbreaks-8-12.xlsx. In Oct. 2006, 36 Australians were sickened with Salmonella in rockmelon).

Tying a brand or commodity – rockmelon, lettuce, tomatoes, meat —  to the lowest common denominator of government inspections is a recipe for failure. The Pinto automobile also met government standards but that didn’t help much in the court of public opinion.

The best growers, processors and retailers will far exceed minimal government standards, will proactively test to verify their food safety systems are working, will transparently publicize those results and will brag about their excellent food safety by marketing at retail so consumers can actually choose safe food.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety at Kansas State University who publishes the food safety blog, barfblog.com from his home in Brisbane.

0478222221

dpowell29@gmail.com

 

Listeria in rockmelon: ‘Misinformation’ is language of deniers

On Sept. 9, 2011, reports first surfaced of an outbreak of Listeria linked to cantaloupe – known as rock melons in Australia — grown in Colorado. Already two were dead and seven others sick.

By the end of the outbreak, 33 people were killed and at least 140 sickened.

On Aug. 17, 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced an outbreak of Salmonella linked to cantaloupe that ultimately killed three people and sickened 270 in 26 states.

In Australia, a third death has now been linked to the Listeria-in-rockmelon outbreak, and the number of sick people has risen to 12.

Already, an Australian rockmelon grower is saying “misinformation” about the listeria outbreak will have a negative impact on growers.

The only misinformation – or fake news – is the lack of information to regain consumer confidence and trust.

Sadly, the number of dead and sick will probably grow, because Listeria has an incubation period of up to six weeks. The melon you ate five weeks ago could make you sick with listeriosis tomorrow.

This is not misinformation, it’s biology.

A table (that needs to be updated) of cantaloupe-or-rockmelon-related outbreaks is available here.

Listeriosis linked to rockmelon in Australia

About a week ago I was chatting with our contractor – we really spend too much time chatting instead of working, and Amy often intervenes – and somehow we got on about the microbiological risks of cantaloupe (or rockmelon as they call it here).

This morning Australians awoke to the news from the NSW Food Authority that two people have died and eight were sick from Listeria-linked to cantaloupe (not the 3 dead and 7 sick reported earlier).

All states and territories are working together to investigate the outbreak and to date they have identified ten cases in elderly patients in NSW (six), Victoria (one) and Queensland (three) with onset of illness notification dates between 17 January and 9 February 2018. All 10 cases consumed rockmelon prior to their illness.

The outbreak has been linked to a grower in Nericon NSW. The company voluntarily ceased production on Friday 23 February 2018, shortly after being notified of a potential link to illness and is working proactively with the Authority to further investigate how any contamination could have occurred in order to get back into production as soon as possible.

Any affected product is being removed from the supply chain, so consumers can be assured rockmelons currently available on shelves are not implicated in this outbreak, but people may already have listeria-infected rockmelons in their homes purchased at an earlier time.

Contaminated water, fertiliser, contact with animals or insufficient cleaning of rockmelons prior to sale are all risk factors for melons becoming contaminated.

The contamination is on the fruit’s skin, not in the flesh.

NSW Health director of communicable diseases Vicki Shepherd said, “If there are levels of listeria on the skin then when you cut it, it can be transferred into the surface where you then eat it.”

Our contractor said today, did you see the news, guess Doug knows a thing.

It’s easy to know a thing if you pay attention. Rockmelons have been repeatedly linked to previous cases of listeria, including an outbreak that killed 33 Americans in 2011.

A table (that needs to be updated) of cantaloupe-or-rockmelon-related outbreaks is available here.

It’ll still be served in hospitals: 3 dead, 7 sick from Listeria-in-cantaloupe in Australia

Listeria monocytogenes has been found on a number of rockmelons from a supplier in New South Wales (NSW, that’s in Australia).

The discovery comes after reports of an outbreak of listeriosis in the Australian state, following an unexpected increase in cases in January and February.

While the link between the farm and the illness cases is not yet conclusive, PMA Australia-New Zealand (PMA A-NZ) said there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to warn at-risk consumers not to consume rockmelon.

“At least 10 people have become infected including three deaths,” PMA A-NZ said in a release. “All cases are people in high risk groups, which includes those who are older, pregnant or have underlying health conditions,”

The NSW Food Authority and NSW Health are currently investigating the outbreak.

Listeriosis is caused by consuming food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria is a bacteria that survives and grows on a number of foods including rockmelon, vegetable salads and fruit salads, cold meats, raw seafood, soft cheeses and seed sprouts.