For Immediate Release: March 24, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
BURLINGTON - The Vermont Department of Health is warning consumers not to eat certain cantaloupes imported from Honduras, which are suspected to be the source of a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Litchfield infections. The alert issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifies cantaloupes that were imported from Honduran grower and packer Agropecuaria Montelibano.
To date, no illnesses have been reported in Vermont, but cases have been reported in 16 other states, including New York. Nationwide, at least 50 cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). No deaths have been reported, and no illness has been linked to cantaloupes from other sources.
Anyone with Honduran cantaloupe in their home should dispose of the fruit immediately. Consumers can check with the place of purchase to determine if the fruit came from this Honduran grower and packer.
Symptoms of illness caused by eating food contaminated with salmonella include fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Salmonella can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections for people with weakened immune systems or other underlying health conditions.
"Vermonters who think they may be ill from eating the suspected fruit should contact their doctor immediately and notify the Health Department," said Cort Lohff, MD, state epidemiologist for the Vermont Department of Health.
Illness should be reported to the Health Department at 802-863-7240 or 800-640-4374 (toll free in Vermont only).
Consumers can take the following steps to reduce the risk of contracting Salmonella or other foodborne illnesses from cantaloupes:
- Purchase cantaloupes that are not bruised or damaged. If buying fresh-cut cantaloupe, be sure it is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
- After purchase, refrigerate cantaloupes promptly.
- Wash hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling fresh cantaloupes.
- Scrub whole cantaloupes by using a clean produce brush and cool tap water immediately before eating. Don't use soap or detergents.
- Use clean cutting surfaces and utensils when cutting cantaloupes. Wash cutting boards, countertops, dishes, and utensils with hot water and soap between the preparation of raw meat, poultry, or seafood and the preparation of cantaloupe.
- If there happens to be a bruised or damaged area on a cantaloupe, cut away those parts before eating it.
- Leftover cut cantaloupe should be discarded if left at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Use a cooler with ice or use ice gel packs when transporting or storing cantaloupes outdoors.
For more information about this Salmonella outbreak visit the following websites:
- FDA Warns of Salmonella Risk with Cantaloupes
- CDC Investigation of Outbreak of Infections Caused by Salmonella Litchfield
Additional information about Salmonella is available at the Vermont Department of Health online Salmonella Fact Sheet.