What to know about the widening melon fruit recall due to deadly salmonella risks

Consumers who eat melons are being advised to be extra vigilant after a spate of government warnings about a deadly salmonella outbreak linked to the fruit.

U.S. health officials have ordered sweeping recalls of potentially contaminated whole and pre-cut melons in recent weeks and also urged consumers on Thursday to throw away any products containing melon, according to recall notices from officials. The flood of warnings has prompted major grocery retailers like Kroger, Trader Joe’s and Walmart to continue removing products containing the melon from shelves.

Bacteria-harboring melons have been linked to at least 117 illnesses, including 61 hospitalizations and two deaths in 34 U.S. states, and that number could rise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Thursday.

Here’s what you should know about the latest melon fruit recalls and how to figure out whether you should keep the fruit in your fridge or throw it away.

What happens?

After an outbreak of serious bacterial infections linked to the fruit, the CDC is warning consumers not to purchase pre-cut melons if they are unsure whether they came from a retailer whose product has been recalled.

The guidance follows previous orders from U.S. health officials to recall whole melons from various brands, including Malichita and Rudy, which led several national grocery chains to recall their own pre-cut melon products. Most recently, Sprouts Farmers Market and Trader Joe’s removed select fresh-cut whole melon products from their shelves, according to an FDA announcement Wednesday.

Cut Fruit Express of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., on Wednesday recalled products containing melon, including Caribou Coffee Fruit Mix CHPG 6.5 oz; Cut Fruit Express Brand 6.5oz, 15oz, 16oz, 32oz Packs Fruit Blend; and food packaging containing 5-pound trays, 10-pound bags and 25-pound buckets, all of which could be contaminated with salmonella.

Which products are affected?

Whole fresh melons labeled Malichita, Rudy, “4050” and “Product of Mexico/produit du Mexique” are unsafe to consume and should be thrown away, the FDA says.

Additionally, products containing pre-cut melons, such as fruit salads, could pose a salmonella risk to consumers, the agency said. According to the FDA, there have been at least three waves of recalls since November for pre-cut melons from major grocery stores, including Kroger, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts Farmer Market, Aldi and Walmart.

What should I do if I don’t know the brand of my melon?

The FDA advises consumers to throw away any melons whose brand is unrecognizable.

“If you cannot tell whether your melon, including pre-cut melons or products containing pre-cut melons, is part of the recall, do not eat, use or throw it away,” the agency said in a statement Thursday.

In addition to throwing away the melon, the FDA recommends people wash all surfaces that may have come into contact with the melon with hot, soapy water or in the dishwasher, the agency said.

What is Salmonella?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical research center, salmonella, or salmonellosis, is a bacterial infection that affects the intestinal tract. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps, which usually begin between eight and 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria.

According to the Mayo Clinic, not everyone who becomes infected with salmonella will experience symptoms. Children under five, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of developing serious illnesses that require medical care or hospitalization.

People who become ill with salmonella should rest and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The infection usually goes away on its own within a few days.

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Elizabeth Napolitano