Cantaloupe at first blush seems to be a pretty benign fruit.  Although a bit ugly on the outside, the inside is a favorite to both young and old – those most vulnerable to foodborne illness.  Cantaloupe seems to pop up everywhere – on the side of your plate for breakfast or on platters from wedding to wakes.

Yesterday afternoon the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified nine cases (including one death) in Colorado linked to cantaloupe (my best guess is cut, not whole) to a multistate Listeria outbreak.  There are two other potentially related cases in Texas and one in Nebraska (more from CDC on Monday). 

Screen Shot 2011-09-10 at 9.22.37 AM.pngA few months ago the CDC, and 10 state epidemiologists, linked 20 ill people infected with Salmonella Panama from Arizona (1), California (2), Colorado (1), Maryland (1), Montana (1), Nevada (1), Oregon (6), Pennsylvania (1), Utah (1) and Washington (5) to Del Monte imported cantaloupe. 

Del Monte of course has become infamous for suing the FDA to lift the import ban on its cantaloupe by claiming that it was not its cantaloupe that sickened Costco customers – that FDA, CDC and 10 states botched the investigation.  Del Monte has also been threatening some type of legal action against the State of Oregon and its senior epidemiologist, Bill Keene for apparently leading the public health charge.

By the way, would it not be deliciously ironic if this recent cantaloupe problem were Del Monte?  On the other hand, given that some Del Monte cantaloupe has been banned from import, perhaps the FDA did Del Monte a favor.

Courtesy of outbreak database, here are a few other cantaloupe outbreaks in the last decade:

  1. Del Monte Cantaloupe Salmonella Outbreak (2011)
  2. California Restaurant Cantaloupe Outbreak, Norovirus (2008)
  3. Colorado Private Home Cantaloupe and Watermelon Salonella outbreak (2008)
  4. Agropecuraria Montelibano Cantaloupe Salmonella Outbreak (2008)
  5. Colorado Cantaloupe Salmonella at Private Home (2007)
  6. Atlantic City Hotel Restaurant Fruit Salad and Green Salad 2007
  7. Grocery Store, Health Care Facility, and Nursing Home Fruit Salad 2006
  8. Colorado Cantaloupe Salmonella Outbreak (2005)
  9. Utah Private Home Cantaloupe, Barbequed Chicken, Corned Beef 2005
  10. Florida Unknown Location Cantaloupe, Pineapple, Bananas 2003
  11. Multistate Day Care Center or Private Home Cantaloupe and Honeydew Melon 2003
  12. Washington State Church Cantaloupe, Grapes, Watermelon 2002
  13. Susie Cantaloupe Distributed by I. Kunik Company 2002
  14. Oregon Nursing Home or Restaurant Cantaloupe 2001
  15. Viva Brand/Shipley Sales Cantaloupe (2001)
  16. Cantaloupes 2000

There have been more than just a few severe illnesses and deaths.  Perhaps it is time to rethink our affair with cantaloupe and push it to the side of the plate.