Cantaloupes: Scrub Em Before You Cut Em

Stop! Don’t slice that cantaloupe until you?ve washed the outside. Cutting through a melon can draw in bacteria from the surface, contaminating the flesh inside. That’s what seems to have happened in a recent outbreak of Salmonella food poisoning that sickened some 40 people in western states.

Salmonella Risk. This isn’t the first such incident. A similar outbreak in 1991 affected 400 people; in 1997 another 20 fell ill. Symptoms of Salmonella, which typically begins within three days of eating tainted food, include fever, cramps and diarrhea. Children, older people and those with compromised immunity are most susceptible.

What to Do? The California Department of Health Services recommends thoroughly washing the rinds of cantaloupes with hot, running water and soap before slicing into them. The agency warns consumers to wash hands, cutting surfaces and utensils before and after handling cantalope and immediately refrigerate uneaten pieces.

The same advice goes for other melons, winter squash and pumpkins. All are susceptible to bacterial contamination because they grow on the ground.

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