Illness outbreaks spur cantaloupe, bologna recalls

Mar 23, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – Foodborne illness investigations in several states have prompted two product recalls, involving cantaloupe suspected as the cause of Salmonella infections and Lebanon bologna that may have ties to Escherichia coli O157:H7 illnesses.

In both outbreaks, epidemiological investigations by state and federal experts identified the suspected foods. So far the pathogens have not been detected in cantaloupe or bologna samples.

Del Monte Fresh, based in Coral Gables, Fla., recalled 4,992 cartons of cantaloupes that were grown on and shipped from its farm in Asuncion Mita, Guatemala, according to a notice yesterday from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The company said it recalled the products after an FDA notification of an investigation into 12 Salmonella enterica serotype Panama illnesses.

The cantaloupe was distributed through warehouse clubs in seven western states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Each cantaloupe carton contained four plastic beige mesh sleeves, each sealed with a plastic orange handle imprinted with the Del Monte label and "3 count, product of Guatemala". The products were sold between Mar 10 and 21.

Del Monte said it has placed a hold on production and distribution from the farm, pending an investigation by it and the FDA into the possible contamination. In 2008 a Salmonella Panama outbreak in the Netherlands sickened 33 people. An epidemiologic investigation found a link to unpasteurized fruit juice, but lab analysis did not find the outbreak strain in the product.

Salmonella Panama is a rare serotype that has been isolated from many foods, animals, and water, according to a September 2010 report from Dutch researchers in Infectious Diseases Bulletin. The pathogen usually causes gastroenteritis but is in a group of subtypes that have an increased likelihood of causing complications such as bacteremia and meningitis.

The focus of the bologna recall is a product made by Palmyra Bologna Co. of Palmyra, Pa., according to a recall notice from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). It applies to 23,000 pounds of bologna that was produced in December 2010 and sent to distribution centers in California, Colorado, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania. The centers distributed it to retail stores.

The USDA said Lebanon bologna is a fermented, semi-dry beef sausage that looks similar to salami. The products, which carry the Seltzer's Beef Lebanon Bologna brand, were packaged for consumers and retailers. Those that were packaged for consumers have best-by dates between Apr 20 and 22 and were sold in 6-, 12-, and 16-ounce packages. The products for retailers have best-by dates ranging from Feb 14 through Apr 21 and were distributed in whole-chub packages, half-chub packages, and 12-pound bulk packages of sliced product.

Bologna products sent to retailers could have been further sliced or repackaged, the USDA said.

So far four case-patients with E coli O157:H7 illnesses epidemiologically linked to the bologna have been identified in New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, the USDA said. Illness onset dates ranged from Jan 28 through Feb 12. The USDA said it is working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state partners, and the company on the investigation.

See also:

Mar 22 FDA recall notice

Mar 22 USDA recall notice

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