The recent recall of Rockmelon due to Listeria contamination is of great concern. 2 people have recently died & their deaths attributed to the contamination.
Rockmelon are susceptible to contamination as they are grown on the ground (where Listeria & other bacteria thrive), they are not cooked or pasteurised (to kill the bacteria in the food), they are generally stored out of temperature control (allowing bacteria to thrive) and their skin is porous and rough which will allow contaminants to adhere to the outer skin, and over time & ‘adequate survival conditions for the bacteria’ allow the bacteria to migrate inside the fruit. All of these things combined make any contamination on the skin of concern.
Due to the porous rough skin, Rockmelon are susceptible to many types of contamination when being grown, during handling & during food preparation. There have been cases of contamination involving Rockmelon in the past, but these are often through incorrect or poor food handling.
When preparing Rockmelon it is best to:
- Remove the fruit from the bag that you brought it home in and discard the bag.
- Wash the skin. If you have a half piece, wash the skin carefully so that you don’t wash the flesh part with water from the skin.
- Cut the pieces or segments so that the flesh does not contact where the skin has been on the board ie: cut it so that the segments stand upright.
- Once the required number of segments have been cut, move these to a clean area of the board before laying them over or pealing the skin off.
- If you have been handling the outer skin, wash you hands before handling the flesh.
- Discard the skin at once.
- Do not allow the flesh to contact the outer skin or areas where the outer skin has been sitting.
- Once prepared, store in the fridge.
- Wash your hands.
- If you have more Rockmelon to prepare later, store it in a new bag or on a plate covered with plastic wrap (don’t forget, when you take the unused portion out of the fridge, remove from the plate, follow the steps above & wash the plate before re-use)
It is unlikely that your Rockmelon will be highly contaminated, but if you use the methods above you will always prepare the fruit in the best possible and safest manner.
The handling of Rockmelon is basically the same as if you were preparing meat & then preparing salad – you wouldn’t prepare them in the same area without cleaning it first or you would prepare the meat in one area or on one board & then the salad in a different area or on a different board.
Listeria is commonly found in soil, sewage, water and through this can be found in foods like vegetables, coleslaw, meat, soft cheese, and fruits – things from in & on the ground (this is one reason why pregnant & nursing mothers are advised to stay away from some of these items as well as soft cheese, etc).
The incubation period for Listeria is from 8 days to 3 months and the symptoms of Listeriosis are “flu-like” symptoms.
The optimum growth temperature for Listeria is 25 - 30°C ... basically – our body temperature or normal summer/spring room temperatures, however it can survive temperatures from 0 - 45°C.
As Rockmelon has low acidity & high moisture content it can be called a potentially hazardous food, but, when grown, handled & stored correctly Rockmelon is a sweet & enjoyable fruit.
If you have any questions on the handling or food safety aspects – don’t hesitate to give HLP Controls a call.