The Grapevine

Pre-Cut Melons Linked To Salmonella Outbreak, Dozens Report Sick

Due to a potential salmonella contamination, Caito Foods voluntarily recalled melon products produced at the Caito Foods facility in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The company called the decision "an abundance of caution," after being advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The following eight states were affected by the recall: Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Salmonellosis is a foodborne illness caused by a bacterium named salmonella. Infections may be accompanied by symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, and headaches. In most cases, the illness will last less than a week and disappear on its own.

In severe cases, the infection may spread all over the body through the bloodstream. This is dangerous enough to lead to death unless the patient receives immediate treatment with antibiotics. Each year in the U.S., salmonella is estimated to infect 1.2 million people, lead to 23,000 hospitalizations, and cause 450 deaths.

The recalled products included fresh cut watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and fresh-cut fruit medley products (which contain one of these melons). They were sold in clear, plastic containers at Costco, Jay C, Kroger, Payless, Owen’s, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, and Whole Foods/Amazon.

According to the CDC, a total of 60 cases were reported in five states. No deaths have occurred so far, although 31 affected people were hospitalized. An investigation is underway to determine if additional stores or states were affected. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), public health officials, and regulatory officials in several states are also involved.

"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," the CDC said in a statement, adding that the warning was only for pre-cut melons, not whole melons. "If you don’t remember where you bought pre-cut melon, don’t eat it and throw it away."

In April 2018, millions of eggs from Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, Indiana, were also recalled due to a suspected salmonella contamination. Currently, another multistate outbreak has been linked to backyard chickens which has affected over a hundred people in 36 states.

"People can get sick from salmonella from touching live poultry or their environment. Birds carrying the bacteria can appear healthy and clean," the CDC stated. "It’s important to always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in their environment."

There is no vaccine available to prevent the infection. People who are older than 65 or younger than 20, transplant recipients, pregnant women, those traveling through countries with poor sanitation, and people with weak immune systems are said to be at the highest risk of becoming infected with salmonella.

Experts recommend good hygiene habits to minimize the risk — for instance, washing your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, contact with farm animals, etc. In addition, avoid the consumption of undercooked eggs, undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk and water from lakes and pools.