Eating This Delicious Fruit Could Kill You

Unclean! Unclean!
Yet another outbreak of deadly disease found in food will have you tossing out your fruit salad. Even if you are, like me, one of these organic-food-buying, food-safety-is-number-one kind of gals. So as a regular purchaser and eater of this particular delicious fruit, I have to say, WTF?

There is a very popular, very common, very juicy melon out there that apparently has had E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria hanging out on it for, like, ever. Two outbreaks so far this year mean I'm cleaning out my fridge and swearing off a family favorite.

But what's even more strange is how this melon becomes the most dangerous one around, and also that people have known about it FOR YEARS.


The culprit? The cantaloupe, which has killed one person and made at least 12 more sick in Texas, Colorado, and Nebraska from the bacteria Listeria. Remember, Listeria is that one thing pregnant women have to avoid like the plague -- or, apparently, like a cantaloupe. This new infestation of Listeria has been found, following an outbreak of Salmonella in March of this year. So far the brand has not been identified in this bout of food poisoning, so if I were you, I'd just ditch any melons hanging around the house for now.

It seems like every other week we get the news about a deadly food-borne illness, but apparently cantaloupes are especially dangerous and always have been. Something I never knew growing up when we had our own patch of melons in the garden. Apparently it's safer to stick to watermelon or honeydew, even with their lighter-seeming shells, as the netty rind makes it incredibly difficult to get rid of any bacteria once it's found its way onto the melon. Furthermore, like a heat-seeking missile, that bacteria seeps into the juicy part and is now killing people. Nice.

Like most food contamination that ends in illness and death, there is very little oversight of the safe production for melons. This is the main problem, insofar as disease-ridden produce getting into our food supply. But these melons have another unique condition that can cause the Salmonella or Listeria poisoning: They are so delicious, everybody wants to eat, lick, or otherwise taint them before they're even off the vine. Cantaloupes are incredibly attractive to deer, coyotes, even feral pigs. The wildlife that come in contact with the 'loupes while in the ground and in the nearby water supply can contaminate the juicy ball of goodness. 

My daughter and I both love cantaloupe, so this is a huge bummer in my house. I can't believe we'll have to give up our summer treat. But until there's more regulation and testing, it's not worth risking my child's life for a bite of delicious orange melon.

Are you worried about food poisoning by cantaloupe?


Image via Eurofruit/Flickr

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