Don’t Let Salmonella Leave You Feeling “Melon-choly”
Enjoying summer-ripened cantaloupes, watermelons and honey dews is nearly a summer ritual. However if you’re not careful when it’s time to serve these refreshing vine-grown fruits, they can deliver a decidedly unwelcome surprise – Salmonella. Don’t feel melancholy – there are easy steps you can take to avoid cross-contaminating your favorite fruit with this all-too-common food contaminant.
How to avoid cross-contaminating melon
Before serving your choice of melon, it’s important to take steps to ensure you don’t cross-contaminate the fruit with Salmonella or any other pathogen. Because melons grow on the ground, they may pick up Salmonella bacteria there, as well as anywhere during the trips from farm to grocery store to home.
When you’re ready to serve the melon, follow these steps:
- Step 1: Thoroughly wash the outside of the melon under running water. (No soap.) Use a produce brush to scrub the surface.
- Step 2: Use paper towels to rub the surface dry. Do not re-use the towels because they may have picked up Salmonella bacteria when drying the melon.
- Step. 3: Wash and dry your hands with soap and water.
- Step 4: Use a clean knife to cut into the melon. Wash the knife after separating the melon halves, then cut from the inside (melon flesh side) out to the rind or use a melon baller to remove the fruit in bite-size pieces.
Refrigerate cut melon until you are ready to serve.
If you are storing your melon in the fridge prior to cutting it, wash the melon and dry it so you don’t bring Salmonella into the refrigerator on an unwashed melon surface which could then contaminate other foods.
Melon recall is timely reminder
A recall initiated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration in June 2018 points out the risk of improper fruit preparation. The recall involved pre-cut melons sold in grocery stores. Somewhere in the chain of preparation, Salmonella entered the process and contaminated thousands of servings of fruit, leading to a multi-state recall of the cut melon products. Several dozen people were hospitalized with salmonellosis (Salmonella infection), which causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.
Every year, 1.2 million cases of salmonellosis are reported in the U.S. Interestingly, for every reported case of salmonella infection, 38 cases are unreported. It’s estimated that 38-40 million are actually sickened by this particular bacteria annually, many at home. Salmonella infection can be dangerous for babies, the elderly, pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system.