Melon Safety: Preventing Salmonella in Pre-cut Melon
With news of the recent recall on pre-cut melons, and the FDA warnings of a Caito Melon Salmonella Outbreak, it is important to know some helpful information regarding melon safety.
Because melons easily support the rapid growth of harmful foodborne pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli, it is important to properly handle and serve this potentially hazardous food. Nothing makes this warning clearer than the two recent Caito Melon recalls in the last two years – both recalls linked to a melon salmonella outbreak.
Melons first become exposed to bacteria, such as salmonella, out in the fields where they grow. Thankfully, the outer rind of melons protects the fruit inside, but the outer rinds of melons also hold on to bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli. When someone prepares a melon, the action of cutting the melon open exposes the inside to the potentially contaminated outer rind.
How does salmonella and other pathogens traditionally get into Melon? Cutting melons causes problems with contamination of foodborne bacteria. The knife collects the bacteria from the rind of the melon and drags it through the melon where the bacteria will be given plenty of nutrients to grow and multiply. This can happen at home, or, in the case of the Caito Melon salmonella outbreak, on an industrial or commercial level when salmonella gets into the processing plants or production facility. When this happens, the number of victims in much higher and more geographically spread-out.
Once the slices become contaminated with foodborne pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli., the bacteria begin to multiply at rapid rates, for melons are often left out in the “Danger Zone,” temperatures between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit where most bacteria grow rapidly and can double in number every 20 minutes.
Here are some basic handling tips for preparing and serving melons to prevent salmonella and other pathogens:
- Wash your melons. Washing your fruit completely with hot water will not only help remove potentially harmful microbes but can also help remove any remaining pesticide residues, too.
- Refrigerate cut melon. After cutting your melons, wash your hands! Then, sanitize any utensils, cutting boards, or countertops that came in contact with the melon. Then, wash your hands again! Handwashing is a very effective way to reduce cross-contamination of foodborne pathogens in the kitchen.
- Keep cut melons cold. Because prepared melons can be easily contaminated with harmful foodborne pathogens, keep cut melons below 40 degrees Fahrenheit as much as possible. Melons sitting out at room temperature for over 2 hours should not be consumed.
The most recent melon salmonella outbreak, or rather melon salmonella outbreaks since there have been two in two years, have led to a number of melon salmonella lawsuits against Caito, the pre-cut melon processor.