For the latest update on this story see "Cantaloupe farm alarms inspector; outbreak over."
The salmonella outbreak linked to cantaloupe from Chamberlain Farms Produce Inc. that killed three in Kentucky and sickened people in more than 20 states beginning July 6 “appears to be over,” federal officials said Oct. 5.
In its final update on the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced the number of illnesses from 270 to 261. The CDC also reduced the number of states involved to 24 from its previous estimate of 26.
The outbreak resulted in 94 hospitalizations, CDC reported. The final report said additional patient interviews and tests allowed CDC to remove nine cases from the outbreak stats. No new illnesses have been confirmed since Sept. 16.
Food and Drug Administration inspectors moved the Chamberlain Farms case out of the “current” category, assigning it to the agency’s post-response team.
That move came after the FDA posted an inspection report on the Owensville, Ind., farm showing “poor sanitary conditions” at the farm’s pack shed and positive tests for three kinds of salmonella there. Two of the strains were identical to those that sickened the 261 people in the outbreak, according to the CDC.
Despite the CDC and FDA reports, Tim Chamberlain, owner of the farm, issued a written statement through his attorney denying any connection between his farm and the outbreak.
“While we acknowledge that the FDA report notes certain conditions allegedly observed at Chamberlain Farms, there is nothing in the report to indicate the conditions are a source of or contributed to any reported illnesses,” said Chamberlain’s Oct. 4 statement.
Chamberlain started recalling cantaloupe Aug. 17, but the FDA did not name the farm for several days. A list of distributors and retailers who received Chamberlain cantaloupe still has not been released.
Chamberlain told The Packer in August that none of his fruit had lot numbers for food safety traceability purposes. He said he had about 500 acres of cantaloupe for the 2012 season.
According to Indiana media reports, Chamberlain has said he will not grow cantaloupe again and that he is selling his equipment. He has operated the farm since 1982.