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Tossed Out

Indiana farm linked to contaminated cantaloupe also recalls watermelons

In the produce section of the Schnucks grocery store in Columbia, Mo., the store posted a statement about the watermelon recall on a box of non-recalled watermelons. (Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media)

The Indiana farm that recalled cantaloupes linked to a Salmonella outbreak that has killed two and sickened 204 is now recalling its watermelons. Chamberlain Farms issued the voluntary recall because the melons could be contaminated with Salmonella Newport.

Foodborne illness is always a danger for farmers, grocery stores and customers alike.

Schnucks, the family–owned grocery with locations in five Midwestern states, was among the retailers carrying Chamberlain Farms watermelon up until Friday. After it got the withdrawal notice from the Owensville, Ind., farm, Schnucks pulled the cantaloupes from its stores.

“We will always err on the side of caution,” said company representative Lori Willis.

In the produce section of its Columbia, Mo., store Schnucks affixed a piece of paper to a bin containing watermelons from outside the recall area advising customers to return Chamberlain Farms melons for a refund. Schnucks also posted the statement on its website

Sometimes, labeling can help in a recall. Customers who bought melons at Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin Schnucks stores can tell if the watermelons came from Chamberlin Farms if they bear stickers saying “Indian Hills – Product of USA.” In Indiana Schnucks stores, however, the recalled watermelons do not have any stickers on them.

No watermelons had been returned to any Schnucks stores as of Monday evening, according to Willis.

This is the second recent high-profile food safety issue for Chamberlain Farms. In August, samples of Chamberlain Farms cantaloupe were linked through DNA to a strain of Salmonella Typhimurium that has led to 78 hospitalizations in 22 states.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, those infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The bacteria cannot be washed off the melons as it may be on the inside and outside of the fruit

A call to the attorney for Chamberlain Farms for a comment on the watermelon recall was not immediately returned.

Update 9/12/12: Chamberlain Farms issued a statement about the watermelon recall in an email. It reads in part:

Chamberlain Farm Produce, Inc. has voluntarily withdrawn its watermelons from distribution pending the results of further investigation so as to make sure that the public is fully protected. We are continuing to cooperate fully with authorities at the FDA and the Indiana State Department of Health to determine the full facts about the source of the Salmonella found on our watermelon. At the present time, we are not aware of any illnesses that might or could be attributable to the consumption of watermelons grown or sold by the farm.