A rare strain of salmonella – hvittingfoss – has been identified in a number of cases of the foodborne illness across South Australia and NSW.
The majority of cases have been recorded in the greater Sydney metropolitan area. SA Health and NSW Food Authority investigations indicate that the most likely source of the contaminations is rock melon. Other types of melon have not been implicated.
In a statement, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) said it would continue to work with state and territory enforcement agencies and the federal Department of Health to update its advice to consumers, but advised that consumers, especially infants, the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems should not consumer rock melon.
In a joint statement, the Australian Melon Association, PMA Australia-New Zealand and the Fresh Produce Safety Centre Australia & New Zealand said the industry was genuinely concerned for the health of consumers involved in the outbreak.
“The Australian melon industry is a well-organised body of growers who understand food safety risks well. All growers are currently being contacted and appropriate support and advice is being provided. The industry is working closely with government food safety investigators to respond to this incident and will redouble its efforts to eliminate foodborne illness.”
Salmonella hvittingvoss cases are uncommon in Australia, and outbreaks even more so, with an average of 1.3 notifications a month of this type of bacteria.
FSANZ has since advised it is coordinating a trade recall of whole rockmelons from Red Dirt, a rockmelon grower in the Northern Territory.
The relevant state enforcement agency is working with the company to ensure implicated product is removed from distribution.