Listeria in rockmelons

The NSW Food Authority is advising consumers who are most vulnerable to Listeria infection such as older persons, and people who have weakened immune systems due to illness or pregnancy, to avoid eating rockmelon after a recent spike in listeriosis cases in elderly people has been linked to the fruit.


Food safety checklist


Letter from New South Wales Food Authority regarding listeria outbreak

 

Test results for growers currently supplying rockmelon:

Red Earth Farms

Gravina Farms

Martinelli & Langley

Ryan's Melons

Tabbita Melons

Dawson's Melons

Kooba Melons

Lakesview Produce

Lakesview coolrooms

Lakesview prewash

Lakesview postwash

Domaille melons

Capogreco Farms

Listeria is a bacteria that is found in the environment, in soil and water and in some animals. It is a hardy bacteria that can thrive in food processing and packing plants if not controlled and can survive refrigeration. Listeria is killed by heat, such as from cooking and pasteurization. 

Environmental conditions mean that Listeria has difficulty multiplying to large numbers in the field but it does persist.The rough surface of the rind of rockmelon provides an ideal place for Listeria to survive, particularly if the fruit is injured. Listeria bacteria can multiply rapidly if the produce is not thoroughly washed in sanitized water.

Produce can also become contaminated from Listeria that is surviving on food contact surfaces such as cracks and joins in steel, on belts, brushes and rollers, and on packaging.

Listeria is found widely in the environment and rarely causes serious illness in the general population but for vulnerable people, such as those who are over 70, pregnant, or have diabetes, cancer or suppressed immune systems, it can be extremely serious or even life threatening. 

All states and territories are working together to investigate the outbreak and to date they have identified fifteen cases in elderly patients. All cases consumed rockmelon prior to their illness.

The outbreak has been linked to only one (1) grower in Nericon NSW. The company voluntarily ceased production on Friday 23 February 2018, shortly after being notified of a potential link to illness and is working proactively with the Authority to further investigate how any contamination could have occurred in order to get back into production as soon as possible.

A Trade Level Recall was commenced by the grower on Wednesday 27 February 2018.

New South Wales Food Authority has provided a letter to support growers who have not been involved in the listeria incident. a copy of the letter is available here.

Food safety information for growers:

Melon Food Safety poster

Packhouse hygiene poster