THE NSW Food Authority is advising consumers who are most vulnerable to Listeria infection such as older persons, and people who have weakened immune systems due to illness or pregnancy, to avoid eating rockmelon after a recent spike in listeriosis cases in elderly people has been linked to the fruit.
As a precaution, consumers particularly those who are elderly, pregnant or immune compromised who may have rockmelon already in their home are advised to discard it.
Listeria is found widely in the environment and rarely causes serious illness in the general population but for vulnerable people, such as those who are over 70, pregnant, or have diabetes, cancer or suppressed immune systems, it can be extremely serious or even life threatening.
All states and territories are working together to investigate the outbreak and to date they have identified ten cases in elderly patients in NSW (six), Victoria (one) and Queensland (three) with onset of illness notification dates between 17 January and 9 February 2018. All 10 cases consumed rockmelon prior to their illness.
The outbreak has been linked to a grower in Nericon NSW. The company voluntarily ceased production on Friday, February 23, shortly after being notified of a potential link to illness and is working proactively with the Authority to further investigate how any contamination could have occurred in order to get back into production as soon as possible.
Any affected product is being removed from the supply chain, so consumers can be assured rockmelons currently available on shelves are not implicated in this outbreak.
Listeriosis starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and sometimes diarrhoea. The symptoms can take a few days or even up to six weeks to appear after eating contaminated produce.
People at risk should consult their local doctor as early as possible should symptoms appear.
The NSW Food Authority and NSW Health will continue to work with other jurisdictions to monitor the situation.
The six NSW cases linked to consumption of rockmelon form only a portion of the increased listeriosis cases in NSW so far this year, with 15 people affected, mainly elderly with underlying health conditions. Vulnerable people are reminded to avoid all foods that pose a risk of listeriosis, including:
• Pre-cut melons such as rockmelon or watermelon
• Pre-packed cold salads including coleslaw and fresh fruit salad
• Pre-cooked cold chicken, cold delicatessen meats, pâté
• Raw seafood, uncooked smoked seafood (e.g. smoked salmon)
• Unpasteurised milk or milk products, soft cheeses (e.g. brie, camembert, ricotta or blue-vein)
• Sprouted seeds or raw mushrooms.
The NSW Food Authority and NSW Health are continuing investigations into other possible sources of the remaining recent listeriosis cases.
Further food safety advice relating to the safe preparation and storage of rockmelon can be found at foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/foodsafetyandyou/special-care-foods/rockmelons