October 28, 2002
FDA ISSUES IMPORT ALERT ON
CANTALOUPES FROM MEXICO
- The Food Drug Administration (FDA) today issued an import alert on
cantaloupes from Mexico because of insanitary conditions that have resulted
in four Salmonellosis outbreaks in the last three years in the United
States. These outbreaks were responsible for many illnesses including two
deaths and at least 18 hospitalizations. This import alert recommends that
officials detain without physical examination cantaloupe from Mexico offered
for entry at all U.S. ports.
Investigations of Salmonella outbreaks between 2000 and 2002 showed
insanitary conditions in the growing and packing of cantaloupe in Mexico. In
addition, FDA sampling of imported produce found some samples of cantaloupe
from most growing regions in Mexico tested positive for Salmonella. The
samples were collected during both the fall/winter and spring/summer season.
Today's import alert expands the prior import alerts that targeted specific
shippers and growers whose products were linked to outbreaks or tested
positive for Salmonella.
The FDA also announced today that it will continue to work with the Mexican
government on a food safety program for production, packing and shipping of
fresh cantaloupes. The Mexican government has proposed a certification
program based on good agricultural practices and good manufacturing
practices that would allow FDA to identify firms that have adopted and
implemented such a food safety program. This certification program is still
Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal
infections in young children, elderly people, and others with weakened
immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience
fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism
getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as
arterial infections, endocarditis (an infection of the
lining of the heart) and arthritis.
FDA continues to recommend that consumers take the following steps with
cantaloupe and other produce to reduce the risk of food borne illnesses:
Purchase produce that is not bruised or damaged. If buying fresh cut
produce, be sure it is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
After purchase, put produce that needs refrigeration away promptly. (Fresh
whole produce such as bananas and potatoes do not need refrigeration.) Fresh
produce should be refrigerated within two hours of peeling or cutting.
Leftover cut produce should be discarded if left at room temperature for
more than two hours.
Wash hands often. Hands should be washed with hot soapy water before and
after handling fresh produce, or raw meat, poultry, or seafood, as well as
after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets.
Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables with cool tap water immediately before
eating. Don't use soap or detergents. Scrub firm produce, such as melons and
cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. Cut away any bruised or damaged areas
Wash surfaces often. Cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops
should be washed with hot soapy water and sanitized after coming in contact
with fresh produce, or raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Sanitize after use
with a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach in one quart of water.
Don't cross contaminate. Use clean cutting boards and utensils when handling
fresh produce. If possible, use one clean cutting board for fresh produce
and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. During food
preparation, wash cutting boards, utensils or dishes that have come into
contact with fresh produce, raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
Do not consume ice that has come in contact with fresh produce or other raw
Use a cooler with ice or use ice gel packs when transporting or storing
perishable food outdoors, including cut fresh fruits and vegetables.