Health authorities are warning people to steer clear of rockmelons after two people have died and 10 people across three states have been struck down with food poisoning.
Those particularly susceptible are pregnant women, the elderly and those with immune system problems.
The outbreak has been traced to a farm at Nericon, near Griffith, in NSW, but it has now stopped production and is working with the NSW Food Authority to find out how this contamination occurred.
As you may have heard there has been an outbreak of listeria from infected rockmelons. This has been pin pointed to a farm in Griffith NSW. Our rockmelons are from Victoria #fruit #rockmelon #cantelope #freshproduce #localbusiness #supportsmallbusiness #fruitandveg #kangarooflat #bendigo #epsom #victoria
Affected fruits have been removed from supermarkets, but some people may have already purchased the infected fruit.
Health authorities reveal the contamination lies in the fruit’s skin not the flesh, but to be safe, it’s best to avoid consuming any of it.
Major supermarkets like Woolworths have removed rockmelons from shelves and are offering customers refunds if they return the fruit with a receipt.
“We will continue to work closely with the New South Wales Food Authority until we get the all clear to restock rockmelons,” a spokesperson said.
What is listeria?
Listeria is a bacterium that can contaminate food, leading to listeriosis. While it is uncommon, it can be dangerous to vulnerable groups.
It’s primarily transmitted by eating contaminated food, however the transmission can also happen in utero.
What are the symptoms?
For pregnant women, the symptoms will usually present as a mild flu-like illness, but some women will have no symptoms at all. Becoming infected during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm labour, and sepsis or meningitis in the baby.
In immunosuppressed patients, listeriosis will usually cause sepsis, meningitis and meningoencephalitis. Infections such as pneumonia, endocarditis and granulomatous lesions in the liver and other joints are also possible.
Healthy adults usually aren’t affected but may experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms and gastro.
How to prevent listeria poisoning
The Department of Health has outlined the ways to prevent and treat listeriosis, including handling, preparing and storing food correctly.
Also, those at risk should avoid the following foods which have a higher risk of listeria contamination:
- Ready-to-eat seafood such as cooked chilled prawns, smoked fish or mussels, oysters or raw seafood such as sashimi or sushi
- Pre-prepared or pre-packaged fruit and vegetable salads and sandwiches including those available from buffets, salad bars and sandwich bars
- Drinks made from fresh fruit and vegetables where washing procedures are unknown (excluding pasteurised or canned juices)
- Deli meats which are eaten without further cooking or heating, such as pate, ham, salami and cooked chicken (whole, portions or diced)
- Any unpasteurised dairy products
- Soft-serve ice creams
- Soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, blue and feta (these are safe if cooked and served hot)
- Ready-to-eat foods, including leftover meats, which have been refrigerated for more than one day
- Dips and salad dressings in which vegetables may have been dipped
- Raw vegetable garnishes.
Ensure your fridge is kept at 5 °C or below and the freezer temperature should be below -15 °C.
Some other tips
- When you’re shopping leave the chilled and frozen foods until last, and take them home immediately. If your shopping trip is going to last longer than 30 minutes or it’s a hot day, use an cooler bag or icepack to keep the food cold.
- Put cold and frozen foods in the fridge and freezer as soon as you get home.
- After you’ve cooked a meal and you want to cool it, put it into shallow dishes, or make the portions small so that it can be cooled quickly.
- Don’t pretty really hot food into the fridge, wait until it’s stopped steaming.
- Don’t refreeze thawed food.
- Bacteria can grow in frozen food while it’s thawing so don’t let it get into the temperature danger zone. Keep it in the fridge until it’s ready for cooking. If you defrost food in the microwave, cook it straight away.
- Store raw and cooked food separately.
- Store raw food in sealed or covered containers at the bottom of the fridge, in case any liquids leak out.
- Throw out any high-risk food left in the temperature danger zone for more than four hours.
Make sure you visit your doctor if you’re concerned, or are experiencing any symptoms.
For more information on the poisoning cases read here.
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