Just this week, Del Monte Fresh Fruits issued a recall of 4,992 cartons of melons because of a salmonella outbreak in their Guatemala farm. This thick skinned fruit may seem quite safe because we only eat the inside. Little do we know what lies on the skin and how it gets infected.
The melon plant crawls on the ground. The melon fruit rests on the ground and different kinds of animals, such as rodents and birds, are attracted to it. When melons are harvested, they go straight to packaging without washing or cleaning. Consumers may even forget to wash them before storing or eating.
The outer surface of the melon is a good home for bacteria. According to research, even salmonella can penetrate the thick melon skin even when there’s no fruit bruising.
Food safety is a shared responsibility. We may rely on the FDA and food producers to deliver good and safe food to consumers, but we have to protect ourselves by proper handling of the food we purchase and consume.
1. Check the food label. It indicates where the food came from.
2. Be aware of the product recalls and outbreaks.
3. Avoid purchasing damaged or too ripe melons.
4. Wash your hands and wash the fruit with warm water. Cold water seeps in to the fruit causing bacteria to go into the fruit.
5. Store it in a new plastic bag or wrapper and put it in the refrigerator.
The exposures begin when consumers physically handle melons at the retail level. In fact, touching, knocking and squeezing melons are the standard methods used by consumers to select a ripe melon. While this seems like an innocent activity, it may be another means by which melons can be cross contaminated. Such handling at the point of sale may even allow salmonella to infect the consumer directly!
Photo by Eddie.Welker