Pre-cut melon products have been linked to a multi-state salmonella outbreak, which has sickened nearly 100 people nationwide, including at least 23 cases of food poisoning resulting in hospitalization.
The FDA announced a Caito Foods melon recall late last week, indicating that the fruit may be contaminated with a strain of salmonella Carrau, which poses a risk of serious and sometimes fatal foodborne illness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opened a salmonella outbreak investigation on April 2, after its nationwide illness monitoring system, PulseNet, identified at least 93 people infected with the a strain of salmonella Carrau across nine states.
Through epidemiologic and trace back investigations, officials from the CDC and FDA determined 77% of the sickened individuals interviewed reported eating pre-cut watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew or fruit salad mixes with melons within the week before symptom onset.
After collecting information about the stores sickened patients purchased the pre-cut melon products, officials were able to identify the supplier of melon products as Caito Foods LLC of Indianapolis, Indiana was likely the source of the outbreak.
By April 12, CDC officials issued a Food Safety Alert warning consumers not to eat, serve, or sell recalled pre-cut melon and fruit medley products produced by Caito Foods, LLC.
As a result of the investigation, Caito Foods voluntarily issued a recall of all fresh cut watermelon, fresh cut honeydew melon, fresh cut cantaloupe and fresh cut mixed fruit containing one of these melons due to the potential for the products to contain salmonella Carrau.
The fresh cut melon products included in the recall were packaged in clear, plastic clamshell containers and were distributed to independent retailers including Kroger, Target, Trader Joes, Walmart, and online through Amazon through the Whole Foods Market.
The products were distributed to retailers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin with the Caito Food brand name on the label description.
CDC officials believe the products could still be on stores shelves and are asking retailers to view their inventory and properly discard any products containing pre-cut melons that were distributed to them by Caito Foods or SpartanNash Company.
To date, CDC and FDA officials are aware of reported illnesses in Alabama (1), Illinois (5), Indiana (18), Kentucky (16), Michigan (19), Minnesota (3), Missouri (3), Ohio (27) and Wisconsin (1).
While the investigation is still ongoing, Caito Foods announced they have suspended all producing and distributing of pre-cut melon products while the company works with the FDA to confirm the source of contamination.
Salmonella infections can cause mild to severe health consequences depending upon the individual. The bacteria may cause a healthy person to experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain whereas the young or elderly with weakened immune systems may face more severe consequences, including fatal infections.
Among pregnant women, salmonella poisoning may cause still births and miscarriages. Occasionally, salmonella infections may travel through the bloodstream and produce illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis, which can cause severe to potentially life threatening health consequences.
Retailers, wholesalers and customers with additional questions or concerns regarding the recall are encouraged to contact Caito Foods LLC at 844-467-7278 to arrange a disposal or return of the recalled products.