Australians urged to throw out listeria contaminated rockmelon after two die; tips on how to avoid infection

Rockmelon has been linked to two deaths in NSW
Rockmelon has been linked to two deaths in NSW

AUSTRALIANS have been urged to throw out any rockmelons purchased before Wednesday after 10 elderly people across the nation, including six from NSW, were diagnosed with Listeria.

No one in Perth has been affected by the tainted melons.

Two of the six in NSW who became ill subsequently died, a NSW Health spokeswoman confirmed.

Australian Melon Association industry development manager Dianne Fullelove said fruit on the shelf now is not from farms that are implicated.

The outbreak has been linked to a rockmelon grower in NSW.

The melon association has urged people to discard or return any rockmelons purchased before Wednesday.

There have been a total of 15 cases of listeria infection in Australia this year, with 10 blamed on eating contaminated rockmelon between January 17 and February 9, the NSW Food Authority said.

What is listeria and how do you avoid it? 

  • Listeria is everywhere in the environment
  • It’s a type of bacterium that infects humans and other warm-blooded animals through contaminated food
  • It’s found in dirty water, irrigation water, soil and fertiliser
  • Soft cheeses such as Camembert; cold chicken and deli meats; raw seafood and cold seafood such as smoked salmon; ice cream, fresh fruit and bagged vegetables can also carry listeria
  • Infection can also occur through contact with animals and pests and insufficient cleaning of contaminated fruit and unclean hands

Who is susceptible and what are the symptoms? 

  • Pregnant women, infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk
  • Listeria starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and sometimes diarrhoea
  • The time from consuming the bacterium to showing the signs of illness can often be between 8 to 90 days.
  • Some people end up in hospital with dehydration

Six tips on how to avoid a listeria infection 

  • Don’t buy bruised or damaged fruit, wash it before eating and refrigerate within two hours of slicing
  • Avoid foods past their ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date
  • Cook foods thoroughly
  • Reheat food until it is steaming hot
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly and use within 24 hours, or freeze
  • Ready to eat food should never be stored in the fridge for too long as Listeria is one of the few pathogens that can grow in the refrigerator

Source: Food Authority NSW, Food Safety Information Council



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