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Avoid cantaloupe unless you know its origins, CDC warns amid salmonella outbreak

Malichita and Rudy brand cantaloupes, which may show up in some pre-cut mixes, are believed to be behind a growing outbreak of salmonella infections across the U.S. and Canada.
Joe Raedle
Getty Images
Malichita and Rudy brand cantaloupes, which may show up in some pre-cut mixes, are believed to be behind a growing outbreak of salmonella infections across the U.S. and Canada.

U.S. food safety officials are urging consumers not to eat certain cantaloupe products, including some fruit cups, due to the risk of illness as they investigate a worsening outbreak of salmonella infections.

The number of reported infections has nearly tripled in the two weeks since the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the outbreak, which appears to be linked to Malichita or Rudy brand cantaloupes.

At least 117 people in 34 states have gotten sick from the bacteria, the CDC said in an update on Monday. At least 61 of them have been hospitalized and two have died.

Canada is also investigating the outbreak. As of Nov. 24, health officials in the country had confirmed 63 cases across five provinces. At least 17 individuals had been hospitalized and one had died.

Cantaloupes carrying salmonella may be seen with labels bearing the number "4050" or the term "product of Mexico."
/ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Cantaloupes carrying salmonella may be seen with labels bearing the number "4050" and the term "product of Mexico."

The CDC advises against eating any cantaloupe or cantaloupe product that may have come from two brands — Malichita or Rudy.

Whole cantaloupes from these brands might have stickers with the number "4050" and the phrase "Product of Mexico/produit du Mexique."

Additionally, nine companies have recalled pre-cut cantaloupe products and other fruit medleys that may have used or touched Malichita or Rudy cantaloupes. Those companies include:

  • Kwik Trip — mixed fruit cups, cantaloupe cups and fruit trays with sell-by dates from Nov. 4 through Dec. 3.
  • Nate Chinen: In a word, wild. The Crossing is known for working in a contemporary style, but Ted Hearne turned that dial way up. This music is twitchy, allusive, often synthetic and surrealistic. It delivers what I can only describe as a full sensory overload.

  • Freshness Guaranteed and RaceTrac — cantaloupe chunks, seasonal blends, melon mixes, fruit bowls and trays with a sell-date of Nov. 7 through Nov. 12.
  • The libretto pulls not only from Jeff Bezos and William Penn, but also the social media feed of Uber Eats and the FAQ page for a startup called Farmer's Fridge. The direction, by Ashley Tata, really leaned into the surreal — the singers wore bright neon costumes and the lighting cues and choreography all played up this idea of a complex machine gone totally haywire.

  • Vinyard — cantaloupe cubes, melon medleys and fruit medleys sold in Oklahoma from Oct. 30 to Nov. 10. 
  • Kroger, Sprouts Farmers Market and Trader Joe's — cantaloupe chunks, mixed melons, fruit trays and medleys with best-by dates from Oc. 28 to Nov. 8. 
  • Usually the word "farming" calls up a more rustic idea — and Kings Oaks Farm, the Bucks County site where the piece was premiered, actually fits that idyllic vision. But modern farming and agribusiness spell a much more complicated sort of reality — and that's before we begin to factor in all the networks and interventions that go into our food system, all the way up to the DoorDash guy who delivers your order. These are some of the considerations that Hearne wanted to bring into this work, while taking advantage of a really tactile sense of place.

  • ALDI — Cantaloupe chunks and pineapple spears with best-by dates from Oct. 27 to Oct. 31.
  • Some of the words come from letters written by William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania and a Quaker leader. How does he fit into a piece about farming.

  • Bix Produce — Cantaloupe and mixed fruit grab n' go cups with sell-by dates from Oct. 25 to Oct. 36.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency expanded its recall notice to include some types of pineapples, watermelons and honeydew melons, which may have been processed alongside the recalled cantaloupe.

In general, the CDC advises not to eat any pre-cut cantaloupe unless you're certain that Malchita or Rudy brands weren't used.

"This includes cantaloupe chunks and fruit mixes with cantaloupes at restaurants and grocery stores" as well as items you might have bought last month and stored in your freezer, the CDC says.

If you do find you purchased these products, health officials advise that you wash items and surfaces that may have touched the cantaloupe using hot, soapy water.

People infected with salmonella usually experience diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, with symptoms beginning between six hours and six days after consuming the bacteria. Most people recover four to seven days later.

Children under 5 and seniors are at a higher risk of severe, sometimes fatal, illness. For this outbreak, at least 29% of those interviewed by the CDC were children under 5; 50% were 65 years or older.

The true number of people made sick by this outbreak is "likely much higher than the number reported" because many people recover without medical care, the CDC says.

Public health officials estimate that salmonella causes about 1.35 million illnesses, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the U.S. every year.

In addition to the cantaloupe-related outbreak, the CDC is currently investigating lesser outbreaks linked to diced onions, dry dog food and small pet turtles.

NPR's Emma Bowman contributed reporting.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.