Cantaloupe at first blush seems to be a pretty benign fruit.  Although a bit ugly on the outside, the inside is a favorite to both young and old – those most vulnerable to foodborne illness.  Cantaloupe seems to pop up everywhere – on the side of your plate for breakfast or on platters from wedding to wakes.


Friday afternoon the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified nine cases (including one death) in Colorado linked to cantaloupe (my best guess is cut, not whole) to a multistate Listeria outbreak.  There are two other potentially related cases in Texas and one in Nebraska (more from CDC on Monday).


A few months ago the CDC, and 10 state epidemiologists, linked 20 ill people infected with Salmonella Panama from Arizona (1), California (2), Colorado (1), Maryland (1), Montana (1), Nevada (1), Oregon (6), Pennsylvania (1), Utah (1) and Washington (5) to Del Monte imported cantaloupe.


Del Monte, of course, has become infamous for suing the FDA to lift the import ban on its cantaloupe by claiming that it was not its cantaloupe that sickened Costco customers – that FDA, CDC and 10 states botched the investigation.  Del Monte has also been threatening some type of legal action against the state of Oregon and its senior epidemiologist, Bill Keene, for apparently leading the public health charge.

By the way, would it not be deliciously ironic if this recent problem was caused by Del Monte cantaloupe?  On the other hand, given that some Del Monte cantaloupe has been banned from import, perhaps the FDA did Del Monte a favor.

Courtesy of outbreak database, here are a few other cantaloupe outbreaks in the last decade:

1. Del Monte Cantaloupe Salmonella Outbreak (2011)

2. California Restaurant Cantaloupe Outbreak, norovirus (2008)

3. Colorado Private Home Cantaloupe and Watermelon Salmonella Outbreak (2008)

4. Agropecuraria Montelibano Cantaloupe Salmonella Outbreak (2008)

5. California Cantaloupe Salmonella at Private Home (2007)

6. Atlantic City Hotel Restaurant Fruit Salad and Green Salad 2007

7. Grocery Store, Health Care Facility, and Nursing Home Fruit Salad 2006

8. Colorado Cantaloupe Salmonella Outbreak (2005)

9. Utah Private Home Cantaloupe, Barbequed Chicken, Corned Beef 2005

10. Florida, Unknown Location, Cantaloupe, Pineapple, Bananas 2003

11. Multistate Day Care Center or Private Home Cantaloupe and Honeydew Melon 2003

12. Washington State Church Cantaloupe, Grapes, Watermelon 2002

13. Susie Cantaloupe Distributed by I. Kunik Company 2002

14. Oregon Nursing Home or Restaurant Cantaloupe 2001

15. Viva Brand/Shipley Sales Cantaloupe (2001)

16. Cantaloupes 2000

There have been more than just a few severe illnesses and deaths.  Perhaps it is time to rethink our affair with cantaloupe and push it to the side of the plate.

  • jill

    Did you ever consider doing any real investigative reporting? This is a very lame article.

  • Paul

    Considering the amount of people who eat Cantalope as a part of their regular diet, let’s not blow this out of proportion. If Del Monte has a problem with the particular crop it imports due to some local issue, stay away from Del Monte, but we should be much more concerned with the food that will inevidedbly kill us over the long term without any assistence from outside contaminents.

  • mason

    Any food that is served in a way that exposes the edible part to the exterior part of the fruit – the rind – (which can be exposed to fertilizer which could include animal fecal matter, chemicals, and who knows what) creates a potential risk situation for any number of food borne illness and exposure to toxins.

  • m beth

    Maybe it’s the ‘netting’ on the skin. All those nooks and crannies for bacteria. Perhaps, before cutting, cantaloupe should be thoroughly washed: soaked in a solution of vinegar and water, scrubbed with a vegetable brush, perhaps one using a bleach/water solution, and thoroughly rinsed in clean water before being cut. And then, wash the brush, etc.

  • chris

    Maybe I will just grow my own everything now. Food is a necessity, and should never be considered an industry. Shame on Del Monte. But also on unenforced food safety regulations.

  • jane

    It’s time to educate consumers to thoroughly wash cantaloupes before slicing into them. The problem is what’s on the rind, which is transferred to the flesh of the fruit when cutting into it. Nothing wrong with cantaloupe — people just need to be taught to wash it first

  • Steve

    Add that to the growing list of things I should avoid. Maybe they should work on perfecting soilent green to keep us all safe…

  • Leon

    Attack of the Killer Cantaloupes
    Cantaloupes: 1
    Raw Milk: 0
    Sarcasm aside, Bill, why don’t you push for proper produce sanitation as hard as you rail against raw milk? A death that could have easily been prevented.

  • sarah

    Remove canteloupe from the plate? A little extreme, ya think? Let’s get rid of spinache too then. And anything else that has ever made people sick when it wasn’t washed properly. Or cooked properly too! I think education on food sanitation is a much better way to go.

  • Nick

    I was going to complain about this articles total lack of real statistical analysis, or education on how to handle raw produce – but everyone before me did such an awesome job, I think ‘Ibid’ covers it.

  • Jim Schmidt

    For those that are complaining, wash the cantaloup in 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water followed by your regular soap and water wash, then rinse. Hope that makes you happy. Can you tell me how to make raw milk safer? I can pasteurize it. HTH.