Faith-based food safety not enough; cantaloupe outbreak ‘shouldn’t have happened’

 “I know who grows the product and how it’s cared for, so that eliminates any concern, any danger or quality issues.”

That’s a farmer defending the quality of his cantaloupe at a farm stand in Indiana, and it’s included in the video accompanying a USA Today story tomorrow.

I’d prefer some data along with the faith.

Liz Szabo writes consumers are once again doubting the safety of cantaloupes, a year after a deadly outbreak of food poisoning caused by tainted melons killed at least 30 people and sickened 146 people.

In the latest outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says two people have died and 141 have fallen ill in 20 states in a salmonella outbreak linked to contaminated cantaloupe grown in southwestern Indiana. Thirty-one victims have been hospitalized. Both deaths were in Kentucky.

Food-safety advocate Nancy Donley says she’s "hopping mad" over the latest outbreak. "These illnesses and deaths are preventable," says Donley, a spokeswoman for STOP Foodborne Illness. Her group has urged the Food and Drug Administration to more quickly put out new rules and regulations, based on authority from 2010 legislation. "This shouldn’t have happened."

A cantaloupe’s rough, porous skin is an easy target for bacteria, which cling to the bumps on its surface. Cantaloupes growing on the ground can also pick up dirt and germs from manure that runs off from livestock fields, says Douglas Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University.

It’s almost impossible for consumers to adequately wash cantaloupes at home, he adds. The knives used to cut cantaloupes transfer bacteria to the inside.

A table of cantaloupe-related outbreaks is available at