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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Food

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Retail Food Safety Program Information Manual: Safe Handling Practices for Melons

May 25, 2001

  

In recent years there have been several foodborne outbreaks associated with melons. The most recent outbreak (April/May 2001) was due to Salmonella Poona. A total of 46 illnesses including 2 deaths in 14 states, primarily western states, reported this unique strain of S. Poona. Many of the illnesses have been associated with cantaloupe consumption. Other outbreaks which have occurred in recent years are:

  • 2000 - Salmonella Poona, 43 cases in 7 states due to cantaloupe consumption
  • 1998 - Salmonella Oranienburg, 22 cases in Ontario, Canada due to cantaloupe consumption
  • 1997 - Salmonella Saphra, 24 cases in California due to cantaloupe consumption
  • 1991 - Salmonella Javiana, 26 cases in Michigan due to watermelon consumption
  • 1991 - Salmonella Poona, >400 cases in 23 states and Canada due to cantaloupe consumption
  • 1990 - Salmonella Chester, 245 cases in 30 states due to cantaloupe consumption

  

In response to the outbreaks, the produce industry instituted a Melon Quality Program.

  

In 1991, FDA provided guidance to the retail and food service industries that outlined safe handling practices. That guidance was updated in June 2000 to be consistent with the FDA Food Code. It reinforces the fact that following some simple guidelines will help keep fruit fresh as well as safe. Guidance was also provided to consumers in May 2000 to advise them about fresh produce safety. 

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before cutting melons.
  • Before cutting, wash the outer surface of the melon thoroughly with cool tap water to remove surface dirt.
  • Wash all food-contact equipment and utensils that contact cut melons (cutting boards, knives, etc.) thoroughly with hot soapy water, rinse, sanitize, and air-dry.
  • Use a barrier such as gloves, deli paper, or an appropriate utensil to touch cut melons. Do not touch cut melons with bare hands.
  • Maintain the temperature of cut melons at 41° F or below. Cut melons should be displayed in a refrigerated case, not just displayed on top of ice. Uncut melons do not need to be refrigerated.
  • Date mark cut melons that are held more than 24 hours to indicate that they must be consumed or discarded within 7 days.
  • Mark the time when cut melons are displayed without refrigeration. Cut melons may be displayed for a maximum of 4 hours without temperature control, and, if not eaten, must be thrown away at the end of 4 hours.

   

Specific procedures for storing or displaying melons, for washing hands, date marking, and for washing and sanitizing equipment can be found in the FDA Food Code.