Food Safety Update: Menacing Melons

In recent food safety news, the latest villain is the humble melon. And lest we think that all this safe food handling talk is overblown, there may be a new Typhoid Mary on the loose in Rhode Island. We also have a new reason to stay away from bologna. These are just a few highlights of the latest stories in this topic.

More than 4,000 cartons of cantaloupes have been recalled in the last month due to contamination of salmonella. The exact cause of the contamination is not clear, but investigators are pointing to several suspects, including local fauna such as deer and small mammals.

Melons mostly have been considered relatively immune to food illness bacteria because of the hard shell and inedible rind. For that reason, most melons are not washed before getting to the consumer. That raises the possibility of spreading any contamination to the inside of the melon when it’s cut open. But new research is showing that bacteria can cling to the outer shell of melons, especially the netted texture of cantaloupes.

Tainted Zeppole pastries in Rhode Island have made at least 25 people sick, nearly half bad enough to be hospitalized. The goodies were made by DeFranco’s Bakery and distributed to at least three retail or food service outlets. Investigators say the zeppole appear to have been contaminated with Salmonella, possibly from exposure to raw eggs. It appears the bakery may have temporarily stored the pastry shells for the zeppole in old egg crates.

The Palmyra Bologna Company has recalled its products for possible e. coli contamination. The recall affects bologna distributed in BJ’s and Walmart stores in five Eastern states.

The lesson from these and other food contamination stories is that we consumers are the last line of defense and must be careful about handling our food. In coming posts, we’ll examine some things you can do to help keep you safe from tainted food.