(UPDATED COVERAGE, Aug. 20) An unidentified Indiana cantaloupe grower has recalled cantaloupes that are linked to two deaths and 141 illnesses from salmonella.
Three states' health officials linked salmonella cases to melons from Southwest Indiana. The deaths were in Kentucky.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. began pulling cantaloupe from the suspect region Aug. 17, according to spokeswoman Diana Gee. Officials from the Kroger Co., Cincinnati, and Schnucks Supermarkets, St. Louis, made simialr announcements.
Lori Willis, Schnucks spokeswoman, said the regional chain pulled all cantaloupes from southwest Indiana and has coordniated with its suppliers to procure cantaloupes from other regions so that supplies would not be disrupted for consumers.
Kroger's manager of publc affairs for its Delta Division in Memphis, Tenn., said the company's stores do not have cantaloupes from the area of Indiana where the investigation is ongoing. In his statement, Joe Bell said Kroger's Delta Division is selling cantaloupes sourced from California. He said the investigation does not include any suppliers that the chain has used this year.
In an outbreak report, officials with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the grower stopped shipping cantaloupes for the rest of the season.
Kraig Humbaugh of Kentucky's Department for Public Health told Reuters that watermelons from the same region in Indiana are also being investigated as another possible source of a smaller salmonella outbreak.
The United Fresh Produce Association, Washington D.C., issued a member alert with talking points for members in an attempt to minimize negative impact.
"United Fresh, working in cooperation with other produce industry organizations, advises members to be prepared to address questions from customers, business partners or consumers about the outbreak," according to the e-mail.
Information that United Fresh suggests members to cover include:
- Only cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana (and most likely a single farm) have been linked to the salmonella outbreak;
- The FDA is expected to identify the farm linked to the outbreak, helping locate product in the supply chain;
- The cantaloupe industry follows stringent, science-based guidance to minimize contamination; and
- The produce industry is committed to the highest standards of food safety, and considers consumer safety to be the highest priority.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the cantaloupe-related outbreak spans 20 states and has sickened at least 141 people, killing two in Kentucky and sending 31 to hospitals.