CDC collaborated with public health officials in many states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Newport infections linked to cantaloupe originating from Chamberlain Farms Produce, Inc. of Owensville, Indiana.

Public health investigators used DNA “fingerprints” of Salmonella bacteria obtained through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak.  They used data from PulseNet, the national subtyping network made up of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories that performs molecular surveillance of foodborne infections.

A total of 261 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Newport were reported from 24 states:  Alabama (25), Arkansas (6), Florida (1), Georgia (13), Illinois (36), Indiana (30), Iowa (9), Kentucky (66), Maryland (1), Michigan (8), Minnesota (2), Mississippi (7), Missouri (17), Montana (1), New Jersey (2), North Carolina (5), Ohio (5), Oklahoma (1), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (4), Tennessee (8), Texas (2), Virginia (1), and Wisconsin (9).

Among 257 persons for whom information was available, illness onset dates ranged from July 6, 2012 to September 16, 2012.  Ill persons ranged in age from less than 1 year to 100 years, with a median age of 47 years.  Fifty-five percent (55%) of ill persons were female.  Among 163 persons with available information, 84 (51%) reported being hospitalized.  Three deaths were reported in Kentucky.  Results of antibiotic susceptibility testing indicated that this strain of Salmonella is susceptible to commonly prescribed antibiotics.

From August 14-16, 2012 investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) collected samples of cantaloupe at Chamberlain Farms.  They also took samples in the farm’s cantaloupe packinghouse from surfaces that would likely harbor bacteria.  This action was taken in cooperation with the Indiana State Department of Health.  FDA samples of cantaloupe collected at Chamberlain Farms showed the presence of Salmonella Typhimurium with an indistinguishable DNA fingerprint as the outbreak strain.  These samples also showed the presence of Salmonella Newport with a DNA fingerprint that was from the same outbreak strain that sickened 30 people in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  The link was supported by trace back information collected by state officials in Indiana and Illinois which showed that patients consumed cantaloupe bought at stores supplied by Chamberlain Farms.[1]

On October 3, 2012 the FDA released FDA Form (Inspectional Observations) for Chamberlain Farms.  Federal inspectors observed poor sanitary practices at the firm’s cantaloupe packing shed.  A third Salmonella serotype, Anatum, was isolated in samples obtained via environmental swabs collected from various locations and surfaces in the shed.  FDA inspectors noted that food contact surfaces were not constructed or designed in a manner to allow appropriate cleaning.  Multiple locations of the conveyor rollers and belts had accumulated black, green and brown buildup.  There was standing water in the shed.  The firm’s garbage receptacle was overflowing with garbage constituting an attractant, breeding place, or harborage for pests.[2]

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants.  The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.


[2]           See FDA 483 Report, www.fda.gov/downloads/AboutFDA/…/ORA/…/UCM322103.pdf.

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Photo of Drew Falkenstein Drew Falkenstein

Drew Falkenstein joined Marler Clark in January, 2004 and has concentrated his practice in representing victims of foodborne illness. He has litigated nationwide against some of the biggest food corporations in the world, including Dole, Kellogg’s, and McDonald’s.  He has worked on landmark…

Drew Falkenstein joined Marler Clark in January, 2004 and has concentrated his practice in representing victims of foodborne illness. He has litigated nationwide against some of the biggest food corporations in the world, including Dole, Kellogg’s, and McDonald’s.  He has worked on landmark cases that have helped shape food safety policy, HACCP protocol, and consumer rights, such as the E. coli outbreak in fresh spinach in 2006 and the 2008 Peanut Corporation of America outbreak of Salmonella. A frequent speaker for the not-for-profit organization Outbreak, Inc, Mr. Falkenstein travels the country to address public and environmental health organizations as well as food safety meetings and annual educational conferences.  He speaks on the intersection of law and public health, and addresses companies on how to prevent food borne illness outbreaks.