Update (Aug. 18): Wal Mart Stores, Inc. has instructed outlet managers to pull any cantaloupes grown in Indiana from its shelves, Bloomberg reports.
Wal Mart could not confirm if any stores sourced cantaloupes from Indiana, but the company took the step as a precautionary measure. The company did confirm that Sam’s Club stores do not carry cantaloupes from Indiana.
Original story below:
A multistate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium linked to cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana has killed two people in Kentucky and sickened 141 people nationwide, the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the Indiana State Department of Health have confirmed to Food Safety News.
31 people have been hospitalized, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
A total of 20 states have been affected by the outbreak, FDA reports. Illnesses by state are as follows: Alabama (7), Arkansas (3), California, (2), Georgia (1), Illinois (17), Indiana (13), Iowa (7), Kentucky (50), Michigan (6), Minnesota (3), Missouri (9), Mississippi (2), New Jersey (1), North Carolina (3), Ohio (3), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (6), Texas (1) and Wisconsin (2).
Illnesses began in early July, with new cases still likely to be reported in the coming weeks.
The 22 percent victim hospitalization rate (31 out of 141) is unusually high for Salmonella. The CDC estimates that of the over 1 million people sickened by Salmonella in the U.S. each year, about 1.9 percent are hospitalized.
“FDA officials are actively investigating potential sources of the outbreak, and will continue to update the public as more specific information becomes available,” said FDA in a statement Friday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also collaborating with state health departments to investigate the outbreak, said CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell.
A state laboratory in Kentucky genetically matched Salmonella found in cantaloupes from a southern Indiana farm to cases of Salmonella infection in Kentucky.
Kentucky health department spokeswoman Beth Fisher said that public health officials are not yet ready to name the farm, but customers should avoid cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana. A farm under suspicion of being the source has voluntarily stopped shipping out cantaloupes.
In a statement released following the news of the outbreak, the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board reminded consumers that cantaloupes grown in California have never been associated with a foodborne illness outbreak, and that Californian growers have a track record of strengthening food safety standards over the past 20 years. Those safety standards now include mandatory government inspections of farms and packing facilities, as well as traceback measures in cases of recalls.
“It is very important that consumers understand the commitment to food safety the vast majority of cantaloupe producers have and that the current outbreak is the result of one individual operation that did not follow these well-established safety practices for packing cantaloupe,” the statement read.
“However,” it went on, “more concerted efforts must be made by the produce industry and our government agencies to find these bad actors in order to protect consumers as well as the people who rely on the cantaloupe industry for their livelihood.”
This outbreak comes one year after Listeria-contaminated cantaloupes grown at Colorado’s Jensen Farms killed at least 33 and sickened 147, becoming one of the deadliest foodborne illness outbreaks in U.S. history.
Approximately 2,400 acres of Indiana’s 15 million acres of farmland are dedicated to growing cantaloupes, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service. The state accounts for about 1 percent of U.S. cantaloupe production.
Graphics courtesy of CDC.gov© Food Safety News