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Salmonella Outbreak May Be Linked to Honduran Company, Says FDA

March 24, 2008 -- Got any cantaloupes in your kitchen? Due to salmonella risk, the FDA wants you to call the store where you bought the cantaloupe and ask if it came from Agropecuaria Montelibano, a Honduran growing and packing company.

If the cantaloupe came from that company, the FDA says to throw out the cantaloupe because the company's cantaloupe appears to be linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Litchfield in the U.S. and Canada.

The FDA has received reports of at least 50 people in 16 states and nine people in Canada who got sick after eating cantaloupes. Fourteen people have been hospitalized.

Salmonella bacteria can cause nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. People who have recently eaten cantaloupe and experienced any of these symptoms should contact their health care professional.

Most people recover from salmonella infection within five to seven days and don't need treatment. But severe or even fatal cases can occur and are more common in infants, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems.

Cantaloupe Food Safety

The FDA recommends that consumers take the following steps to reduce the risk of contracting salmonella or other food-borne illnesses from cantaloupes:

  • Buy cantaloupes that aren't 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 are bruised or damaged areas on a cantaloupe, cut them out and don't eat them.
  • 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.

The FDA has ordered its field offices to detain all cantaloupes shipped to the U.S. by Agropecuaria Montelibano.

The FDA is also asking U.S. grocers, food service operators, and produce processors to remove from their stock any cantaloupes from this company.

According to media reports, the president of Honduras criticized the FDA's action, saying that the U.S. government hasn't proved that the salmonella originated in Honduras.

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