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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Walker Wedding from Hell – A Salmonella Cantaloupe Link, or Not?

Screen shot 2011-03-25 at 5.19.59 AM.pngJamie Grey of KTVB Boise reported yesterday on what can be an “epidemiology learning moment.” According to Ms. Grey, around 5,000 cases of (about 60,000 fruit) Del Monte “cantaloupe sold at Costco stores in Idaho and other states in the west have been recalled because of possible Salmonella contamination.” According to the FDA, the cantaloupes were distributed through “warehouse clubs” in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Although, Ms. Grey reports that “newlyweds Taylor and Kyle Walker say they’ve got enough information to believe now-recalled cantaloupe served at their reception is what caused more than 40 of their wedding guests to get very sick,” the CDC reports the outbreak strain of Salmonella Panama being reported only from Oregon (5 cases), Washington (4 cases), California (2 cases), and Maryland (1 case).

So, are the Walker guests part of the Salmonella Cantaloupe Outbreak, or simply an unfortunate memory with illnesses caused by another bacteria or virus? What are the facts?

According to Ms. Grey, “on March 12th, the Walkers were married in Boise. Their reception included a cupcake tower and snacks, including cascading fruit displays containing cantaloupe.” And, the bride “says Costco called her caterer and warned that she bought a large quantity of possibly-affected cantaloupe.” However, according the bride, “of the 43 people [who] fell ill, most had eaten cantaloupe, though some hadn’t.”

So, certainly there is an opportunity for the guests to have been sickened by cantaloupe that were part of the recall, but not everyone seems to have eaten them. However, the bride also reported that “her caterer told her everything had been prepared in the same area though,” raising the risk of cross-contamination.

Also, according to Ms. Grey, the Bride reported that “the next day, they started hearing guests were falling ill… Like afternoon to evening of March 13th, we heard from a few people that they were super sick.” In fact, the bride reported, “we had a couple of people who had to go to the hospital. One girl went multiple times.”

Well, the onset of a Salmonella Illness can be 6 – 72 hours. However, many other bacteria and viruses have the same incubation (time from ingestion to onset of illness) period. In addition, symptoms of Salmonella illness can and do look like other bacterial or viral illnesses. Therefore, having positive stool cultures on some or all would be most helpful in determining what caused the 40 plus illnesses. Given the number of reported ill, it does seem a bit unlikely that none of them submitted a stool culture, but it certainly is possible.

So, where does this leave the Newlyweds? Frankly, I think the evidence is a bit weak to link the illnesses to Salmonella or Cantaloupe. Your thoughts?

  • Brooke

    Get out the swabs!

  • I would hope that the people who had to go to hospital would have been asked to provide stool samples for micro testing. Any Salmonella found in clinical samples would/must have been reported to the appropriate health dept.

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    Seems most likely.

  • Yobit

    Given the timing, implicated source and the opportunity for exposure, there is a possibility of a link. It is a bit late, but stool samples would have strengthen the association. Do we know how many of those sickend had ingested Cantaloupe? You can do a Case Control study. Thank you!

  • Jim Schmidt

    Without knowing what other foods were served and what all the onset symptoms and times were it is hard to say. Although more uncommon it could also be Bacillus Cereus, Clostridium Perfringens.
    On a side note we probably have quite a few “caterers” that are not licensed that probably just operate out of their home in my county. A good rule of thumb would be to make sure you use a licensed company/person. Although this isn’t a guarantee at least in most states it will mean they get inspected and are less likely to disappear if trouble comes up.
    I have no information about the caterer that the bride used and am not insinuating anything about them, for all I know a guest could have contaminated the food. It just reminded about caterers in general.

  • Paul Nunes

    Shades of the Brook Lea C. C. Salmonella Outbreak!

  • Taylor Walker

    Hi! This is Taylor Walker.. Stumbled upon this article and thought I’d answer your questions since it was my wedding. We did have guests who went to the hospital who gave samples that confirmed salmonella. Unfortunately, we didn’t collect stool samples from ALL of our guests because the little stool sample cups didnt go well with our thank you cards. Memorable wedding for sure, but far from being “from hell”… It was a great after-wedding diet plan and sure made for an interesting honeymoon :)
    Cheers!