Following a recall announced over the weekend, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late Monday warned consumers not to eat whole cantaloupe from North Carolina’s Burch Farms due to possible Listeria monoccytogenes contamination.
The warning comes almost a year after Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe from Colorado caused the deadliest domestic foodborne illness outbreak in a century and two weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to temporarily spare the Microbiological Data Program from budget cuts. The contamination was discovered by routine MDP sampling in New York.
As Food Safety News reported earlier this month, MDP does around 80 percent of public produce sampling for pathogens like E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Listeria. The program is intended to be primarily for data surveillance, but sometimes sparks recalls.
According to FDA, Faison, North Carolina-based Burch Equipment LLC shipped 580 cases of cantaloupes on July 15 to retail stores in New York and Maine.
MDP pulled a sample on July 16 and reported the positive to FDA on July 26, according to USDA Agricultural Marketing Service spokesman Mike Jarvis, who noted that the New York State Department of Agriculture lab conducted a screen and also used Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) to map the strain’s “genetic fingerprint.” All MDP positives are uploaded to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s PulseNet database.
On July 28, Burch Equipment LLC recalled the cantaloupe. Two days later, on July 30, the FDA warned consumers and urged them to discard the melons, which may have a red label displaying the words “Burch Farms” and reference PLU #4319.
FDA said the cantaloupes were distributed to retail supermarkets, including northeast chain Hannaford Supermarkets, in New York and Maine, but the agency said it was “likely” that the melons were distributed in other states. FDA is working with state health officials, the company, and retailers to get the product off the market. The agency said retailers should be aware that the melons were packed in sweet potato cartons.
Ingesting Listeria monocytogenes leads to listeriosis, which can be a serious and life-threatening illness, particularly for the elderly, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches and sometimes gastrointestinal problems. The incubation period is is typically one to three weeks, but can also be as long as two months.
No illnesses have been reported.
Anyone with questions about fresh fruit safety can call the agency at 1-888-SAFEFOOD or email email@example.com. Consumers who are worried they may have become ill from eating contaminated cantaloupe should consult their health care provider.© Food Safety News