Melons and papaya are a popular food across Australia, particularly as a refreshing snack, dessert or ingredient.
The main types of melons produced (and consumed) in Australia are watermelon, rockmelon and honeydew melon.
Supermarkets and greengrocers often sell melons that have been cut and wrapped in cling film on-site. Major supermarkets often refrigerate cut rockmelon, honeydew and papaya but not necessarily cut watermelon. Most greengrocers do not display these products under temperature control.
This survey was conducted to assess
- prevalence of pathogenic bacteria on cut melons and papayas and
- the handling of these products at retail level to inform risk management.
Samples of pre-cut melons and papayas were purchased from 45 greengrocers and supermarkets across Sydney between January and August 2015.
At time of sampling a questionnaire was also administered to collect information on handling and storage of the melons and papayas at retail level. The placement of the produce on display was also recorded.
A total of 191 samples were tested for microbiological quality. Overall the microbiological quality of samples tested was very good. Salmonella was not detected in any sample. E. coli was detected in one sample of watermelon at 1,100 cfu/g and L. monocytogenes was detected in one sample of honeydew with a level under the limit of quantification (10 cfu/g).
Only 3 (1.6%) samples did not have a SPC above the level of detection (10 cfu/g). These were a paw paw and two watermelon samples, purchased during summer and stored at ambient temperature inside the store. The majority (63%) of samples had a SPC between 1,000 and 100,000 cfu/g.
It appears that ‘normal practice’ across the sector is to cut small amounts and often, which should be encouraged, especially if displaying at room temperature. However, it is clear that there is room for improvement in cleaning and sanitising of cutting equipment and not storing cut fruit overnight.
Full results are available in the report below.