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Extension food safety specialist: Consumers can be confident about Indiana melon crop

Indiana AgriNews - 6/19/2018

By Ashley Langreck

AgriNews Publications

WEST LAFAYETTE. Ind. -- Although there hasn't been an outbreak of salmonella in melons grown in Indiana since 2012, Purdue Extension is doing its best to reassure consumers that Indiana melons are safe to eat amid a voluntary recall of pre-cut melons from Caito Foods.

"Caito Foods recently issued a voluntary recall on their pre-cut melon products. Caito Foods is acting out of an abundance of concern recalling their products. They are being very cautious because of a possible salmonella issue with their pre-cut melon products, but nothing has been confirmed yet," said Scott Monroe, who serves as the Purdue Extension food safety educator.

Monroe said that when there is concern related to a product or a recall, whether voluntary or not, the tendency among consumers to stop eating or buying that particular product.

"We are just two to three weeks out from the Indiana melon harvest. Indiana ranks anywhere from fourth to fifth in cantaloupe production, and it is a multi-million dollar industry," said Monroe, adding that if concern about all melon produce spreads, farmers could see a decline in their sales.

Monroe said it is important that consumers understand the melons that were involved in the recall were not melons from Indiana because they aren't even ready for harvest yet.

"Indiana cantaloupe is normally ready for harvest around July Fourth, while the watermelon crop isn't ready until close to the middle of July," he said.

Monroe stressed that there has not been a salmonella outbreak in the Hoosier melon crop since the outbreak that was linked to an Indiana farm back in 2012.

"We would like to think that growers learned quite a bit from that outbreak and the importance of food safety when the melons are in the field, harvested and then shipped," he said.

Monroe added that since the outbreak in 2012, a third party comes in yearly to test the water used on melon operations in Indiana.

"With the upcoming melon harvest, consumers should enjoy Indiana melons and buy with confidence that they are safe to eat," he said.

Amanda Deering, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Food Science at Purdue, who specializes in fresh produce food safety, reiterated it is important for consumers to remember that the pre-cut melon from Caito Foods linked to possible salmonella issues did not originate in Indiana.

"In case consumers are still worried about consuming melons, they can wash their melons under running water with a scrub brush before consumption," she said.

Ashley Langreck can be reached at 800-426-9438, ext. 192, or alangreck@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Langreck.

 
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