Consumers who eat cantaloupe are advised to be on high alert following a spate of government warnings over a deadly salmonella outbreak linked to the fruit.
U.S. health officials have ordered sweeping recalls of potentially contaminated whole and pre-sliced cantaloupes over the past few weeks, in addition to urging consumers on Thursday to toss out any products containing the melon, recall notices from officials show. The flurry of warnings has prompted major grocery sellers such as Kroger, Trader Joe's and Walmart to continue removing products containing the melon from store shelves.
Bacteria-harboring cantaloupes have been linked to at least 117 illnesses, including 61 hospitalizations and two deaths across 34 U.S. states, and those numbers could grow, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday in a statement.
Here's what to know about the latest rash of cantaloupe recalls, and how to know if you should save or toss that fruit in your fridge.
What is happening?
Following an outbreak of severe bacterial infections linked to the fruits, the CDC is warning consumers to steer clear of pre-cut cantaloupe if they are unsure of whether it is from a distributor whose product has been recalled.
The guidance follows previous orders by U.S. health officials to recall whole cantaloupes from several brands, including Malichita and Rudy, which prompted several nationwide grocery chains to recall their own products containing pre-cut cantaloupes. Most recently, Sprouts Farmers Market and Trader Joe's on Wednesday pulled select fresh-cut products made from whole cantaloupes off their shelves, according to an FDA notice.
Cut Fruit Express of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, on Wednesday recalled products containing cantaloupe, including Caribou Coffee Fruit Mix CHPG 6.5oz; Cut Fruit Express Brand 6.5oz, 15oz, 16oz, 32oz packages of fruit mix; and food service packages of 5lb-tray, 10lb-bag, 25lb-Pail, all of which could be contaminated with salmonella.
Which products are affected?
Whole fresh cantaloupes with Malichita, Rudy, "4050" and "Product of Mexico/produit du Mexique" labels are not safe to consume and should be thrown away, the FDA said.
In addition, products containing pre-cut cantaloupe such as fruit salads may pose a salmonella risk to consumers, according to the agency. Since November, there have been at least three waves of recalls issued over pre-cut cantaloupe by major grocery stores, including Kroger, Trader Joe's, Sprouts Farmer Market, Aldi, and Walmart, according to the FDA.
What should I do if I don't know my cantaloupe's brand?
The FDA is advising consumers to toss out any cantaloupe that cannot be identified by brand.
"If you cannot tell if your cantaloupe, including pre-cut cantaloupe or products containing pre-cut cantaloupe is part of the recall, do not eat or use it and throw it away," the agency said Thursday in a statement.
In addition to throwing out the melon, that FDA advises people to wash any surfaces that may have come into contact with the cantaloupe, using hot, soapy water or a dishwasher, the agency said.
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella, or salmonellosis, is a bacterial infection that affects the intestinal tract, according to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical research center. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, which usually begin between eight and 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria.
Not everyone who contracts salmonella experiences symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. Children under age five, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are more at risk of developing severe illnesses that require medical care or hospitalization.
People who get salmonella should rest and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The infection usually resolves on its own in a few days.
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