Wednesday evening, the FDA named the farm associated with the salmonella outbreak in cantaloupe. The cantaloupe was grown at Chamberlain Farms of Owensville, Indiana.
A salmonella typhimurium outbreak has sickened at least 178 people in twenty-one states. Two people have died in the outbreak and sixty-two people have been hospitalized. More illnesses might still be reported in connection with the outbreak.
Originally, the FDA said only that the farm was in southwestern Indiana. With so little information to go on, major stores, such as Meijer and Walmart, pulled all cantaloupes from the area from their shelves. Southwest Indiana farms whose cantaloupe tested free from contaminants still couldn’t sell their melons. Those farms have lost thousands of dollars in the past week.
The FDA has known since at least August 17 which farm grew the salmonella-contaminated cantaloupes, so why didn’t they release the name of the farm sooner?
The problem, in this case, is that the source of the salmonella hasn’t been found. Any melons testing positive with salmonella came from the retail level. The contamination could have occurred in the field, in the packing house, at the distributors, or at the store.
In other words, Chamberlain Farms may not be to blame. The salmonella might have been introduced to the cantaloupe after the melons left the farm.
This leaves the problem of balancing the needs of the rest of the cantaloupe farms in southwestern Indiana with the needs of a farm that may or may not be responsible for the outbreak.
Whole cantaloupes photo via Shutterstock