June 2, 2000
Outbreak Offers Food Safety Lesson - Wash Cantaloupe and other fruits before eating
From the South Dakota Department of Health
Pierre, SD., A salmonella outbreak in
several western states is a good reminder to consumers of how important it is to wash the
skins of unpeeled fruit before eating, says a state health official.
Consumption of tainted cantaloupe has been linked to at least 39 cases of salmonella in
California, Oregon, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington. Because cantaloupes are grown on
the ground, their outer skin can become contaminated in the field by human or animal
waste, or during distribution prior to sale, said Dave Micklos, Director of Health
Protection for the Department of Health.
"Unless the cantaloupe rind is first scrubbed with soap and hot running water,
slicing into it can contaminate the fruit," said Micklos. "Handle cantaloupe the
same way you do raw meat - wash your hands before and after you work with it and
refrigerate unused cut portions right away. In fact, all fruits and vegetables that aren't
peeled should be washed."
Salmonella symptoms, which include fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea,generally occur
one to three days after eating contaminated food and last two to five days. While most ill
individuals recover without medical attention, the infection can be life threatening to
young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Related story.