The multistate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Newport infections linked to cantaloupe appears to be over, according to the final update published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on October 5. In its update, CDC provided final case count numbers associated with the outbreak linked to Chamberlain Farms Produce, Inc. of Owensville, Indiana. A total of 261 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Typhimurium (228 persons) and Salmonella Newport (33 persons) were reported from 24 states. Ninety-four ill persons were hospitalized, and three deaths were reported in Kentucky. The map of confirmed cases is presented below, followed by the final epi curve showing the onset of cases in this outbreak.
On October 3, 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a document that lists observations [PDF – 2 pages] made by the FDA investigators during the inspection of Chamberlain Farms. This inspection report details a large number of problems observed at the Chamberlain Farms packing facility including poor sanitary practices, food contact surfaces that were in poor condition and could not be adequately cleaned, standing water in the facility, and failure to remove litter and waste from the facility which could serve as an attractant and harborage for pests. The FDA inspectors also obtained swab samples from environmental surfaces in the packing shed which confirmed the presence of Salmonella Newport and Salmonella Anatum. Cantaloupes collected from the facility and a production field tested positive for Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Newport.
Although this outbreak now appears to be over, it does serve to reinforce existing concerns about food safety practices used in fresh produce operations. This is the second consecutive year that major multistate foodborne illness outbreaks have been associated with domestically-produced cantaloupes (refer here for information on the 2011 Listeria monocytogenes outbreak associated with cantaloupes produced by Jensen Farms in Colorado). The produce industry must continue to strive to improve food safety practices during production, harvest and packing of fresh produce.