There have been a number of cases of food poisoning linked to rockmelons. Overseas evidence suggests contaminated water, fertiliser, contact with pests/animals or insufficient cleaning of rockmelons prior to sale could be contributing factors to rockmelons becoming contaminated.
Rockmelons have been linked to Salmonella and Listeria poisonings in the past, notably Salmonella outbreaks in the United States during the 1950s, 1960s and in 2002. More recently there has been Salmonella linked to rockmelons in Australia in 2016 and a Listeria outbreak in elderly people linked to rockmelons in 2018.
As a result, the NSW Food Authority is advising consumers to take some simple precautions to minimise the risk from foodborne illness in rockmelons. Vulnerable populations should avoid eating rockmelon.
Minimise the risk
These simple precautions will help minimise the risk of foodborne illness in rockmelons:
- Do not purchase melons that are bruised or damaged. If buying fresh cut produce, ensure it is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
- Fresh produce should be refrigerated within 2 hours of peeling or cutting. Leftover cut produce should be discarded if left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Wash hands with hot soapy water before and after handling fresh rockmelons.
- Cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops should always be washed with hot soapy water and cleaned after coming in contact with fresh produce, or raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
- Use clean cutting boards and utensils when handling fresh produce. If possible, use 1 clean cutting board and knife for fresh produce and a separate board and knife for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
High risk for vulnerable people
Food poisoning is highly unpleasant for most healthy adults but rarely produces serious health complications beyond diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal cramping and fever lasting several days.
However food poisoning in vulnerable people, such as people over 65 years of age, diabetics, pregnant women, people with cancer and suppressed immune systems, can be extremely serious or even life threatening. People at risk should consult their local doctor as early as possible once symptoms appear.
Listeria Outbreak Investigation – Summary Report, October 2018
Between January to March 2018, a national listeriosis outbreak affecting 22 people (including six from NSW) required a major investigation and response by the NSW Government.
The Food Authority conducted the environmental investigation into the outbreak while NSW Health coordinated the epidemiological investigation across several jurisdictions.
A summary report outlining the findings and making recommendations can be found here.