Foodborne Illness Outbreaks Linked to Cantaloupe Not Uncommon

SEATTLE, WA — An E. coli O157:H7 outbreak at the Little Seeds Early Childhood Center in Yellowstone City, MT was traced to contaminated cantaloupe served to children at the day care on July 6. Eight children, ranging from 18 months to five years old, suffered from confirmed E. coli infections. Three of the eight children were co-infected with Campylobacter jejuni bacteria. Five other children at the day care were diagnosed exclusively with Campylobacter jejuni.

Cantaloupes have increasingly been associated with foodborne illness outbreaks. In 1990 a large multistate outbreak of Salmonella Chester that was associated with consumption of cantaloupe occurred in the U.S. Outbreaks of Salmonella Poona traced to cantaloupe consumption were reported in 1991, 2000, 2001, and 2002. Other serotypes that have caused cantaloupe-associated infection include Salmonella Saphra and Salmonella Oranienburg.

“We are reminded again that cantaloupes are particularly vulnerable to contamination,” said Patti Waller, epidemiologist for Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm nationally recognized for its successful representation of victims of foodborne illness. “They are gown on the ground and their rough outer skin can become contaminated by soil or animal waste. When you slice through the rind of the melon, you risk contaminating the fruit inside.”

Waller noted that consumers should follow FDA recommendations which include washing melons with cool tap water immediately before eating and scrubbing the rind with a clean produce brush. Refrigerate cut melon within two hours and wash hands frequently.

William Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark, said, “Children are particularly vulnerable to foodborne pathogens. Day care providers should take extra precautions to ensure they are providing safe food for children to eat.”


BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has represented victims of the largest foodborne illness outbreaks across the United States in the last ten years. William Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box in 1993. In 1996, Marler Clark represented the children most severely injured in the Odwalla juice E. coli outbreak, and in 1998 the firm represented victims of the Finley School District E. coli outbreak. Marler Clark has successfully resolved over 1,000 E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, hepatitis A, Campylobacter jejuni, Shigella, Norwalk Virus, and Listeria claims.

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