26 October 2006
Rise in salmonella potentially linked to rockmelons
A dramatic increase in one strain of salmonella has been recorded across NSW this month. Infection with the particular strain of the bug, 'Salmonella Saintpaul' is believed to be linked to eating rockmelons. In similar outbreaks overseas, the surface of the rockmelons were contaminated with Salmonella, which was then introduced when they were cut open to eat.
Around 50 cases have been confirmed since the beginning of October, representing a dramatic increase on previous monthly averages, which usually record between one to seven cases.
In the interests of public health, NSW Health is carrying out a case control study to assess the current cause of this particular strain of salmonella on the community.
Since the study, which commenced on Tuesday October 24, 90% of confirmed cases reported eating rockmelon during the exposure period.
In light of these preliminary findings, NSW Health and NSW Food Authority advise consumers to follow these simple food safety tips when handling rockmelons:
Dr Jeremy McAnulty, NSW Health Director of Communicable Disease advises people on best food hygiene practises.
"We remind people to remain vigilant when it comes to food hygiene. When preparing food, don't be complacent - wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly," said Dr McAnulty.
While consuming fresh fruit is vital to maintaining optimum health, it is important that people practise good food hygiene when preparing fresh fruit and vegetables for consumption.
The NSW Food Authority is investigating the matter further. A fact sheet outlining how consumers can minimise the risk of salmonella in rockmelons can be found at the Food Authority's web site at www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au.
For a range of health information, go online to www.health.nsw.gov.au