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Contaminated Cantaloupe Causes Deadly Listeria Outbreak In Australia

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Contaminated cantaloupe or rockmelon is currently linked to a listeria outbreak in Australia that has so far left three people dead and sickened at least 15 people.

Australians had been advised to throw any melon they bought before Wednesday, Feb. 28, after the outbreak was linked to contaminated rockmelon.

"Whenever listeriosis is diagnosed in a patient, it must be reported to NSW Health, and the patient or carer is interviewed to establish the food that has been consumed up to the last 70 days from onset of the infection," New South Wales Health advised.

Melon Industry Adopts New Packing Guidelines After Outbreak

The country's melon industry has decided to review how it packs its fruit after the national outbreak.

After crisis talks between the Australian Melon Association and retailers on Thursday, growers who currently supply rockmelon now have to provide evidence that their fruit was not contaminated.

"Going forward we will assess how we manage packing sheets and hopefully start some research in this space to make sure we give the growers the latest information," said association industry development manager Dianne Fullelove.

The rockmelon grower linked to the contamination has stopped its production.

Listeria

Eating foods contaminated with listeria bacteria does not always cause illness. Those with a compromised immune system, however, may suffer from severe illness, which could lead to death.

The illness begins with flu-like symptoms, which include chills, fever, nausea, muscle aches, and sometimes diarrhea. The symptoms may appear days or even weeks after eating contaminated food product.

Pregnant women, those with a compromised immune system, and the elderly have been urged to avoid pre-cut melon as NSW Health confirmed the third fatality linked to consumption of the fruit.

In the United States, listeriosis, the illness caused by eating food contaminated with listeria, affects 1,600 people per year. Of this, about 260 die.

Susceptible To Listeria Contamination

Peter Collignon, from Canberra hospital, said that melons often become contaminated when these are exposed to manure or foliage, such as hay, that can produce mold, creating conditions that are perfect for listeria to thrive.

"Rockmelon has a rough surface and the bacteria can get in the grooves and doesn't come off easily, and spreads through the fruit during cutting," he said.

Other Food Products Linked To Listeria Outbreaks

Listeria outbreaks have also been linked to dairy products such as soft cheeses, ice cream as well as produce, which include sprouts and celery.

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