(March 24) The Food and Drug Administration issued an alert March 22 regarding cantaloupes that have been tied to an outbreak of salmonella-induced illnesses in the U.S. and Canada.

The melons were imported from Honduras grower-shipper Agropecuaria Montelibano, according to the FDA. That same day, Charlie’s Produce, Spokane, Wash., recalled packages of fresh-cut cantaloupes sold in eastern Washington, Idaho and Montana, with use-by dates of March 7-29, according to The Seattle Times. Charlie’s Produce had received no reports of illnesses linked to the melons, according to the Times.

The FDA alert directs retailers, foodservice operators and produce processors to remove any cantaloupes from Agropecuaria Montelibano. Consumers were urged to check with retailers to determine the source of recently purchased cantaloupes. The administration’s field offices have been ordered to detain the company’s melons arriving at U.S. ports.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya criticized the FDA’s warning as “extreme and imprudent,” according to The Associated Press, and said proof of the link of the illnesses to Central American melons had not been released. The country’s trade minister asked the FDA to release its findings, the AP reported.

Sixteen states had reported 50 illnesses linked to the cantaloupes, according to the FDA. The illnesses were nationwide: Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. There were nine illnesses reported in Canada.

Cantaloupe imports from Central America rose sharply following a similar import alert regarding Mexican cantaloupes in October 2002, stemming from four salmonella outbreaks from 2000-02. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Honduras shipped 202.5 million pounds of cantaloupes to the U.S. in 2001 and 247.2 million pounds in 2007.