An Australian cantaloupe grower says it has met government requirements and is resuming sales while maintaining the position that its fruit was not the source of a Listeria outbreak that killed at least six people.
Owners of Rombola Family Farms in New South Wales continues to tell consumers and Australian media that cantaloupe, or rockmelons as they are called there, was linked to Listeria monocytogenes contamination. However, they flatly deny there is any proof that their melons were proved to be remotely related to the outbreak.
The Australian Melon Association also questions the government’s investigation into the outbreak, which sickened at least 19 people and was identified in mid-February. Association leaders have said the cause of the outbreak had not been traced or adequately addressed.
Officials with the New South Wales government who have been involved in the outbreak investigation say both the farm and the association are wrong.
“There was very much direct linkages and direct proof that their rockmelons were responsible for the outbreak,” NSW compliance and biosecurity director Peter Day told ABC News.
“We got positive testing in 20 rockmelons taken from different shops from Rombola (and) across the state, five whole rockmelons from different boxes from that farm, a boot swab from the packing area at the farm itself.”
The official statement from Rombola Family Farms indicated the owners would conduct pathogen testing mandated by state officials, in addition to voluntary daily testing.
In response to the outbreak and investigation, the melon association leadership has promised to work with its members and health authorities to develop an accreditation system for rockmelon growers. The association has also asked growers to mark their fruit with specific brands or other identifying information so consumers will know its origin.
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