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Scrub And Wash Your Cantaloupe

Germs Go Down The Drain

Eileen Frere

June 12, 2001

SEATTLE - A Southern California couple is suing an Arizona company after their little boy got severely ill from contaminated cantaloupe.

Thirty people across the country, including four in Washington, became sick after eating cantaloupe contaminated with a rare type of salmonella.

Two people in California have died.

'Very Lethargic'

Sixteen-month-old Nathan Eget of Tarzana, Calif., is still recovering. In April, Nathan started showing flu-like symptoms.

"He had quite bad diarrhea and some vomiting and just got very very lethargic," says Liz Eget, Nathan's mother.

Nathan spent nine days in the hospital, three in intensive care.

He got sick from the strain of salmonella called salmonella poona after eating one of his favorite fruits -- cantaloupe.

'They Need To Be Checked'

Federal and state health departments have linked a salmonella outbreak to contaminated cantaloupe from Mexico, under the Viva brand.

The contaminated cantaloupe was sold in major grocery store chains between April 6 and April 24, so by now the melons are all gone.

Nathan's family is suing the company that imported the melons -- Shipley Sales Service in Arizona.

"They need to be checked -- in some way or form, fruits need to be checked more thoroughly because this shouldn't be happening. People shouldn't be eating contaminated fruit that can kill you," says Eget.

Eget's attorney in Seattle says the salmonella bug has been traced to the Arizona shipping warehouse.

"The issue really is, was this product contaminated with a pathogenic bacteria and the answer is yes," says Bill Marler, Eget's attorney.

'Scrub And Wash'

Health officials say consumers can also take precautions by scrubbing the skin of fruit and washing it underneath cool running water.

Cleaning the outside of the fruit is important because as soon as you cut into it, anything on the outside can contaminate the inside.

Shipley Sales Service in Arizona wouldn't comment on the lawsuit.

The symptoms of salmonella poisoning include fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea one to three days after eating tainted food.

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