An outbreak of Salmonella Newport in six countries that has sickened 54 and killed one has been tentatively linked to ready-to-eat sliced watermelon imported from Brazil. The outbreak began in December, 2011.

According to the Daily Mail online, “Seventy per cent of the victims are female and include a six-month-old baby and pensioners. The one British fatality was suffering from a number of other underlying health problems.”

The UK’s Health Protection Agency is still investigating the outbreak and officials said they cannot yet conclusively link the outbreak to sliced watermelon. Between 10 and 15 victims reported eating the fruit within two or three days of falling ill.

The breakdown of the cases by country: England (26), Germany (15), Republic of Ireland (5), Scotland (5), Wales (3), N. Ireland (1). 

Slicing fruit can transfer pathogens from the surface to the inside. Officials at the Health Protection Agency advise washing fruits and vegetables before consumption.

Watermelon was associated with an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak at Sizzler restaurants in the U.S. in 2000. In July of that year, an outbreak of 64 confirmed cases and 551 probable cases were tied to watermelon that had been cross-contaminated with raw meat products. Of those ill, four developed HUS and one died.