The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published an Environmental Assessment of the Chamberlain Farms production fields and packinghouse associated with a multi-state Salmonella outbreak caused by contaminated cantaloupe melons in summer 2012.
The outbreak affected at least 261 people across 24 states and there were three reported deaths. Both Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Newport serovars were isolated from patients and from sampled melons originating from Chamberlain Farms.
The FDA report finds that contaminated agricultural water was probably a contributing factor in the spread of contamination, while the poor hygienic design of equipment in the packinghouse may well have assisted the growth and spread of the bacteria. For example, equipment used to wash cantaloupes could not easily be cleaned and pooling of water was observed near packing equipment. Inadequate cooling of packed fruit may also have allowed bacterial growth on the melon rind.
The report recommends the adoption of good agricultural and management practices in growing, processing and packing fresh produce and makes specific recommendations for the growing environment and packinghouses.