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Cantaloupe Lovers Beware: Important Food Safety Tips

October 5, 2011

I’m sure you have heard about the cantaloupe scare and are probably wondering if it is safe to resume eating this juicy sweet fruit.  Like many other foods, cantaloupes can also cause food borne illnesses if proper food safety procedures are not followed.  In recent news, there has been buzz about a food safety recall on cantaloupes.  As of September 24, 2011, 61 people became sick and 10 or more people died from the outbreak of Listeria found in cantaloupes grown in Colorado.  Fortunately, the outbreak was tracked and traced to a specific farm sold under the name of ‘Rocky Ford’ or ‘Frontera Produce, Rocky Ford Cantaloupes’ and 300,000 cartons shipped between July 29, 2011 and September 10, 2011 were recalled.  The cantaloupes now in supermarkets ARE safe to eat however food safety precautions should always be practiced in your home as with any fresh produce. 

 When purchasing fresh produce, food safety starts in the supermarket.  Choose whole cantaloupes free from blemishes, cuts, sunken areas, or mold growth.  Do not wash the cantaloupe until you are ready to eat it since washing it and putting it in the refrigerator may cause mold growth.  Always wash your hands before and after handling cantaloupe since it can be contaminated by human contact during or after harvest or by bacteria in the soil.  While refrigerating cantaloupe, be sure to keep it separate from other foods to prevent cross-contamination.  Proper refrigerator storage of 36-41 degrees F will prevent the cantaloupe from drying out and it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days after purchase.  When ready to be eaten wash the cantaloupe under running water with a vegetable brush to remove any dirt or bacteria left behind in the rind.  Do not clean the melon (or any fruits and vegetables) with dish soap because it is porous and the fruit can absorb detergent residues.

 When eating cut cantaloupe, be sure it has not been left out in room temperature for more than 2 hours, which can cause harmful bacterial growth.  Cut cantaloupe should be kept chilled in a refrigerator or on a container of ice. 

 Almost all of these tips can be used for all fresh produce.  Be sure to follow proper food safety to prevent any possible food borne illnesses before they start and when in doubt, throw it out!





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