Friday, August 24, 2012

At least 50 Kentuckians sick from salmonella, likely from cantaloupes; best to wash them with a diluted bleach solution

Photo by Richard North for Gristmill
Health officials have zeroed in on a farm in southwestern Indiana responsible for at least some of the cantaloupe that were contaminated with salmonella, an outbreak that has sickened at least 50 Kentuckians and 178 people nationwide. It has also been associated with the death of two Kentuckians.

There is disagreement between state and federal officials whether melons from the region are safe to eat, The Associated Press reports. The Food and Drug Administration says to discard any cantaloupes grown in the area that were bought on or after July 7. Amy Reel, Indiana Department of Health spokeswoman, says melons from other farms in the area are safe to eat.

The 100-acre Chamberlain Farms, 20 miles north of Evansville, seems to be at least one source of the outbreak. It stopped producing and distributing the melons Aug. 16. They sold cantaloupe to four grocery stores in Southwestern Indiana, as well as to wholesale purchasers in St. Louis; Owensboro, Ky.; Peru, Ill.; and Durant, Iowa. (Read more)

Salmonella is a bacterium that is found in the intestines of animals and is contracted from eating raw eggs or raw poultry or having those products touch other food. It can occasionally be found on produce, so the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services recommends washing all fruit and vegetables thoroughly and scrubbing the rinds of cantaloupes and other melons before cutting or slicing them. As Tim Wright, the acting health director in Anderson County, told The Anderson News,  "People use a clean knife and cut through the melon, and that can shove the salmonella right into its meat" if any remains on the rind. He recommends washing all melons in a solution of one cup of bleach to a gallon of water, because melon rinds get salmonella when rodents urinate on them.

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