Avoiding Salmonella in Melons

Someone once told me that you could get salmonella from eating cantaloupe and other melons.  I thought the person was crazy, but come to find out, it’s true.

The more I researched, the more I discovered that you could not only catch salmonella from melons, you could also get E.coli 0157, hepatitis A, Cryptosporidium and Shigella. These food born illnesses can be found in the dirt where melons grow – and since melons grow in the dirt, the rinds get contaminated.  When you run a knife through the melon to cut it, it touches the rind then it touches the fruit inside.

I found the following food safety guidelines from the Utah Department of Health.

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before cutting melons.
  • Before cutting melons, scrub the outer surface of the melon thoroughly with cool tap water and a clean produce brush to remove surface dirt.  My county health department added to this by saying to wash the melons in a bleach and water solution prior to cutting them (according to the International Journal of Food Microbiology, the bleach solution should  be 200 ppm total chlorine – which can be derived by mixing 2 tsp bleach with 1 gallon of  water.)
  • Wash all food-contact equipment and utensils that contact cut melons (cutting boards, knives)thoroughly with hot soapy water.
  • Use a barrier such as gloves, deli paper or an appropriate utensil to touch cut melons. Do not touch cut melons with bare hands because you can transfer the bacteria to the fruit from your hands. If you do touch the melon with your bare hands, wash them.
  • Maintain the temperature of the cut melons at 41° degrees F or below; uncut melons do not need refrigeration.
  • Cut melons should be consumed or discarded within seven days to avoid excessive microbial growth.
  • Cut melons can go without refrigeration for four hours and then should be thrown away.  Make a note of the time the cut melon was served.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after cutting or handling melons

As we enter into the season for fresh melons, please be safe and wash the outside before cutting into them and enjoying them.  (And, for a tip on how to peel and cut a melon, see my vlog I filmed last summer.)



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