Precut Melon in 8 States Recalled for Salmonella Outbreak

A salmonella outbreak in five states has been linked to precut melon distributed by an Indianapolis firm, Huffington Post reports. So far 60 illnesses and 31 hospitalizations have occurred, and as a result the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is urging anyone who purchased fresh-cut watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe and fresh-cut mixed fruit products packaged by Caito Foods LLC to throw them out if you still have them. The products have been recalled in eight states. They were sold in clear plastic containers at Costco, Kroger, Payless, Owen’s Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart and Whole Foods.

It’s only been a few weeks since news flew across the U.S. about contamination involving bagged and chopped romaine lettuce that eventually was traced to Yuma, Arizona. In this instance it was E. coli making people sick, but no matter what disease or product it is, it seems like things like this keep happening at a more rapid pace every day.

It's no secret U.S. consumers love the convenience of prepackaged produce that is sold in bags, clamshells and tubs. Unfortunately, those types of greens and fruits are precisely the ones continually implicated in outbreaks associated with foodborne illness — and always, it’s difficult to tell right away where these foods came from, due to the industrialization of our food system.

Although the latest recall is dead-center in the U.S. Midwest, it’s not unusual to go to the supermarket and return with fruits and vegetables grown and harvested in Canada and Mexico, as well as countries in Europe and South America, among others. And although this means you can enjoy seasonal produce nearly year-round, this convenience is not without a cost.

Given the health concerns about prepackaged foods, there are lots of reasons not to purchase them. For one thing, chemicals such as chlorine are routinely used on greens during the rinsing process in an attempt to kill off E. coli and salmonella. In some cases with greens they’ve actually been triple-washed, and packagers still can’t guarantee that there are no germs on them.

With all this washing and exposure to the air and light, there is also the danger of nutrient loss when the fruits and vegetables are cut and packaged. And, no matter what type of packaged produce you pick, you'll always face the issue of packaging waste, as none of these packages can be recycled. The good news is greens such as lettuce are among the easiest garden vegetables to grow, and they are prolific.

By planting new seeds every 10 days, you can receive multiple harvests throughout the growing season. Depending on where you live, you may be able to grow certain greens year-round. If gardening is just not your thing, consider purchasing your greens from a local farmers market. If that’s not possible, always look for organic foods only in the grocery store.

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