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.

Development and validation of a mathematical model for growth of pathogens in cut melons

Everywhere I go in Brisbane, I see cut cantaloupe.

cantaloupe.half.sep.12Rock melon as the locals call it.

From the biggest retail megalomarts to the local fruit and veg., aging cantaloupes are cut in half, wrapped in cellophane, stored at room temperature and sold at a slight discount.

This is a Salmonella growth factory.

The practice is shameful, and for every corporate food safety thingy out there who says with a straight face, food safety is our top priority, you’re full of it.

I’m looking at you, Coles and Woolworths (which control the retail grocery market in Australia).

I’m told the melon-in-half practice is prevalent in California, Florida, and pretty much everywhere.

The thing with produce – especially the ones in repeated outbreaks like cantaloupe, leafy greens and tomatoes – is that once it is cut in any way, the cut provides a growth medium for any existing microorganisms. Storing at room temperature sets fire to the flame, which is why the cold-chain is so important for cut produce.

Friend of barfblog Schaffner just can’t stop writing papers, which is good, because food safety needs more evidence and less faith.

Abstract below.

Development and validation of a mathematical model for growth of pathogens in cut melons.

Journal of Food Protection, Number 6, June 2013, pp. 928-1108 , pp. 953-958(6)

Li, Di; Friedrich, Loretta M.; Danyluk, Michelle D.; Harris, Linda J.; Schaffner, Donald W.

Many outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with the consumption of fresh-cut melons have been reported. The objective of our research was to develop a mathematical model that predicts the growth rate of Salmonella on cantaloupe.salmonellafresh-cut cantaloupe over a range of storage temperatures and to validate that model by using Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7 on cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon, using both new data and data from the published studies. The growth of Salmonella on honeydew and watermelon and E. coli O157:H7 on cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon was monitored at temperatures of 4 to 25°C. The Ratkowsky (or square-root model) was used to describe Salmonella growth on cantaloupe as a function of storage temperature. Our results show that the levels of Salmonella on fresh-cut cantaloupe with an initial load of 3 log CFU/g can reach over 7 log CFU/g at 25°C within 24 h. No growth was observed at 4°C. A linear correlation was observed between the square root of Salmonella growth rate and temperature, such that √growth rate = 0.026 × (T – 5.613), R2 = 0.9779. The model was generally suitable for predicting the growth of both Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 on cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon, for both new data and data from the published literature. When compared with existing models for growth of Salmonella, the new model predicts a theoretic minimum growth temperature similar to the ComBase Predictive Models and Pathogen Modeling Program models but lower than other food-specific models. The ComBase Prediction Models results are very similar to the model developed in this study. Our research confirms that Salmonella can grow quickly and reach high concentrations when cut cantaloupe is stored at ambient temperatures, without visual signs of spoilage. Our model provides a fast and cost-effective method to estimate the effects of storage temperature on fresh-cut melon safety and could also be used in subsequent quantitative microbial risk assessments.

Jensen Farms files bankruptcy in wake of cantaloupe listeria deaths

Kids, kids, the rock melons are back in Brisbane.

I bought three small and juicy cantaloupes Friday for $2, or $0.68 each at the fruit and veg shop. An older woman was stocking up, and said to me, “$0.68, how can you go wrong?”

I didn’t want to spoil her appetite and get into the whole-listeria-or-salmonella in cantaloupe thing. But things can go wrong.

The Denver Post reports that Jensen Farms, the southeastern Colorado cantaloupe growers who were the source of a deadly listeria outbreak last year, filed for bankruptcy Friday.

Lawsuits from the outbreak, which caused at least 32 deaths, dozens of hospitalizations and 146 illnesses, are prominent in the filings.

Jensen’s bankruptcy attorney, Jim Markus, said the filing should free up millions of dollars in insurance and other funds.

"We’re hopeful the bankruptcy process is a mechanism to help get them paid, as quickly as we can distribute it to victims," Markus said.