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August 17, 2012

Purdue experts remind about proper food handling amid salmonellosis outbreak

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University food safety experts are reminding consumers to thoroughly wash and properly store all produce in the wake of a salmonellosis outbreak in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health issued an alert Friday reporting that a salmonellosis outbreak in that state may be related to cantaloupes, specifically melons grown in southwestern Indiana. The alert said an investigation is continuing into other salmonellosis cases in Kentucky that could be related to cantaloupe and watermelon consumption. At this point, there has been no confirmation that any particular grower or growers are connected to the outbreak.

Haley Oliver, a Purdue food microbiologist, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises washing cantaloupes under running water with a stiff brush and refrigerating the fruit within two hours of cutting.

"Proper refrigeration stops the growth of Salmonella and E. coli," Oliver said. "With cantaloupe, especially, you should entirely remove the rind from the fruit since that rind has crevices and is porous."

Oliver said all fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed, and anyone with compromised immune systems, including children or the elderly, should cook those foods.

"This doesn't mean that people need to stop eating melons. Proper washing of all produce minimizes risks of foodborne illnesses," Oliver said.

An FDA guide to selecting and safely serving fruits and vegetables can be viewed at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm114299

Daniel Egel, a Purdue Extension plant pathologist who specializes in vegetable pathology, said that salmonella is often transferred to food through manure. He said that the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that manure be applied long before crops are planted, that workers wash their hands and that produce should be thoroughly washed to prevent such incidents.

Writer: Brian Wallheimer, 765-496-2050, bwallhei@purdue.edu

Sources: Haley Oliver, 765-496-3913, hfoliver@purdue.edu

Daniel Egel, 812-886-0198, egel@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: After hours, Haley Oliver can be reached at 765-491-4775, and Daniel Egel can be reached at 812-890-2704.

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson, robins89@purdue.edu
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