WASHINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Southwestern Indiana's melon growers are facing
new federal food-safety regulations following last year's salmonella
outbreak that killed three people who ate Indiana-grown cantaloupes.
The Food and Drug Administration will be inspecting packing sheds and
possibly field conditions as part of that effort. Samples of the melons
will be taken and tested for salmonella and E. coli, among other
E. coli and salmonella are the two most common of food-borne illnesses
passed from tainted produce onto consumers.
Purdue Extension educator Scott Monroe said the State Department of Health
has hired two farm food safety consultants to assist in the farm produce
education campaign. Purdue has had food safety teams in place for three
years, he said.
Monroe said the two consultants, one based in Oaktown and the other in
Fort Wayne, will work directly with farmers.
"If farmers have questions, they will contact the consultants who can
guide them," Monroe told the Washington Times-Herald.
A salmonella outbreak traced to a southwestern Indiana cantaloupe farm
killed three Kentucky residents last year. That outbreak followed a 2011
Listeria outbreak that killed 33 people who ate cantaloupes grown on a
Workshops were recently held in southwestern Indiana — the center of
Indiana's cantaloupe and watermelon production — to educate melon farmers
and their workers about the FDA's new expectations for protecting
consumers from food-borne pathogens.
The rough, pitted surfaces of melons can trap dirt and pathogens, making
contaminants harder to remove during the fruit-processing following
Most large melon growers harvest the fruit from the field, unload and wash
it, pack it and then cool the fruit before it's shipped to stores. All
that moving of the melons and washing can lead to unsanitary conditions in
A letter from the FDA released in February states that investigations into
both last year's salmonella outbreak and the 2011 Listeria outbreak traced
to a Colorado farm revealed multiple instances of unsanitary production,
handling conditions, and packing house practices that lead to those
Nearly one-third of all cases of food borne illness come from produce. In
addition to cantaloupes, leafy greens, green onions, and tomatoes are
usually the most susceptible.
Consumer who purchase cantaloupes and other melons are advised to use a
vegetable brush to scrub away dirt and other material on the rind. The
fruit should then be patted dry with a clean towel and allowed to dry
before it's sliced or cut up.