Cantaloupes: Safe Handling Tips

As you probably read in the FYI roundup, the U.S. is sending some health inspectors to Honduras to try to get a handle on a crop of tainted cantaloupes that have given a handful of Americans and Canadians salmonella. The melons, sent over by grower and packer Agropecuaria Montelibano, have of course been recalled, but not before they were distributed pretty widely, with 50 illnesses reported in 16 states.

But Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said the fruit was just fine, according to CNN.

“It’s not in our fruit,” he said about last week’s report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that some Honduran cantaloupes may be contaminated with salmonella. “It’s not true what they are saying. Logically, we believe it is an error.”

To make his point, Zelaya broke out a melon that was due to be exported to the states.

“Permit me to make a demonstration,” he said, then cut open the fruit, sliced off a chunk, put it in his mouth and chewed vigorously.

“I eat this fruit without any fear,” he said with his mouth full. “It’s a delicious fruit. Nothing happens to me!”

Still, just to be safe, the U.S. has sent its people in, and has blocked the import of Agropecuaria Montelibano’s antelopes. Also, the FDA put out this set of cantaloupe-safety tips:

The FDA recommends that consumers take the following steps to reduce the risk of contracting Salmonella or other foodborne illnesses from cantaloupes:

* Purchase cantaloupes that are not 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 happens to be a bruised or damaged area on a cantaloupe, cut away those parts before eating it.

* 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.

In other food safety news, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced yesterday that it will hold a big meeting April 9 to discuss ramping up beef safety enforcement following the biggest recall ever. Sheesh. See if we ever buy groceries outside the farmer’s market again.

FDA Warns of Salmonella Risk with Cantaloupes from Agropecuaria Montelibano [FDA Press Release]
US Health Inspectors Sent to Honduras [AP]
Honduran president defends melons by eating one [CNN]
FSIS to Host Public Meeting to Discuss Challenges and Solutions for Reducing the Incidence of E. coli O157:H7 in Raw Beef [USDA Press Release]
Photo: Askobac [Flickr]

Cantaloupes: Safe Handling Tips