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Food Poison Journal Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Cantaloupe Recall due to Potential Salmonella Contamination

A company called Melon Acres, which is located in Oaktown, Ind., recently recalled cantaloupes that it had shipped to three states in the Midwest due to Salmonella contamination.  The bad, or potentially bad, melons made their way on August 13-14 to the Aldi’s store in Greenwood Indiana, and Meijer stores in Lansing and Newport Michigan and Tipp City Ohio.  The company’s recall notice indicates that nobody has yet become sickened by the contaminated melons.  The recall was prompted by FDA testing, which generated a positive result for Salmonella in the affected lots.

The affected melons were identified as 41 MG 10, bin numbers 4753-4980; the release didn’t say how many bins were included in the recall. One melon in a sample of 20 tested positive for salmonella, according to the company’s release.

Now recalls and outbreaks happen all the time–and this certainly is not the first go ’round for cantaloups–but I certainly hope that there is some explanation (it is probably too beurocratic to be comprehensible) for the FDA’s failure to report the positive result for 10 days, as well as Melon Acres’ failure to recall the melons until six days after receiving the report from the FDA.  

If people do end up getting sick as a result of ingesting Salmonella bacteria from these melons, we will be interested to find out the real answers to these seeming failures.  Unacceptable answers, at least from a civil-liability standpoint, will be that Melon Acres did not know precisely who received the contaminated melons; or that the test result was merely a presumptive positive rather than being confirmed by further testing days later.  

I understand that outbreaks are going to happen; and everybody agrees, i think, that everybody in the chain needs to do a better job of policing stores, testing for pathogens and preventing contamination from occuring in the first place.  But all efforts will undeniably be in vein if the regulators, and more importantly the companies being regulated, do not act quickly when their products are, in fact, contaminated.  That is the proverbial deal-breaker.  The entities with the last clear chance absolutely must be willing and able to act, preferring consumer safety over profit margins.