12 sick: multistate outbreak of Salmonella Panama infections linked to cantaloupe

Cantaloupes are once again making people sick with salmonella.

An updated table of U.S. salmonella-in-cantaloupe outbreaks and recalls is available at:

“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is collaborating with public health officials in a number of states, including Oregon, Washington, California, and Maryland and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Panama infections. Investigators are using DNA analysis of Salmonella bacteria obtained through diagnostic testing to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak.

“As of March 22, 2011, 12 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Panama have been reported from Oregon (5 cases), Washington (4 cases), California (2 cases), and Maryland (1 case). Reported dates of illness onset range from February 5, 2011 to February 23, 2011. Ill persons range in age from less than 1 year old to 68 years old, with a median age of 12 years old. Sixty-six percent are male. Among ill persons, two have been hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.

“Collaborative investigative efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies have linked this outbreak to eating cantaloupe. Eleven of 12 ill persons reported eating cantaloupe in the week before illness. Ten of these 11 ill persons purchased cantaloupes before becoming ill at seven different locations of a national warehouse clubs. Information gathered with patient permission from membership card records helped determine that ill persons purchased cantaloupes sourced from a single farm. Product traceback information indicates these cantaloupes were harvested from single farm in Guatemala. FDA is working closely with CDC, authorities in states where illnesses have occurred and the firms involved to investigate the source of the contamination.

“On March 22, 2011, Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc. voluntarily recalled 4,992 cartons of cantaloupes, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella Panama. The cantaloupes were distributed through warehouse clubs in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

The recalled products consist of cartons of cantaloupes, each containing 4 plastic mesh sleeves with 3 cantaloupes per sleeve that were available for sale between March 10 and March 21, 2011. The cantaloupes, grown in and shipped from Del Monte Fresh’s farm Asuncion Mita in Guatemala, have a light brown color skin on the exterior with orange flesh. The recalled cartons of cantaloupes are dark brown cardboard with the “Del Monte” logo in red lettering and “cantaloupes” in yellow lettering on a green background. The cantaloupes have the lot codes: 02-15-24-10, 02-15-25-10, 02-15-26-10 and 02-15-28-10. No illness has been linked to cantaloupes from other sources.”

In farm-to-fork food safety, the idea is to minimize levels of contaminants throughout the system – salmonella should not be entering food service or home kitchens through cantaloupe. But if it does, here are ways to further minimize the spread and growth of salmonella.

The most important thing to do is to minimize the chances of contaminating the interior of the fruit. This is done by preventing the rind from contaminating the inside of the cantaloupe, either by direct contact or by cross-contamination. There are different methods used for preparing a cantaloupe, but there is disagreement over which is the most effective technique.


“Reducing Salmonella on cantaloupes and honeydew melons using wash practices applicable to postharvest handling, foodservice, and consumer preparation”. Tracy L. Parnell, Linda J. Harris, Trevor V. Suslow. University of California. International Journal of Food Microbiology 99 (2005) 59-70.

“Effect of Sanitizer Treatments on Salmonella Stanley Attached to the Surface of Cantaloupe and Cell Transfer to Fresh-Cut Tissues during Cutting Practices”. Dike O. Ukuku and Gerald M. Sapers. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 64, No. 9, 2001.

Here’s a video from a few years ago about how to safely prepare cantaloupe