Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness Associated with Melons

Clara Diekman, Matthew D. Krug, Ashley T. Myers, Rachel McEgan, Keith R. Schneider, and Michelle D. Danyluk

This document is intended to serve as a reference for everyone interested in the safety of melons by providing a comprehensive list of melon-related outbreaks in the United States.

In recent years, foodborne illness outbreaks have become increasingly associated with produce (Walsh et al. 2014). One such commodity linked to foodborne illness are melons (specifically cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon), which are consumed around the world. Melons can be eaten alone or combined with other fruit and vegetables to make salads. Regardless of the way they are prepared, melons are typically consumed raw. This lack of a processing step increases the risk a foodborne pathogen making it to the consumer (Carstens et al. 2019).

While in the field, melons may be in direct contact with the soil, irrigation water, and insects, all of which are a potential source of contamination (Carstens et al. 2019; Walsh et al. 2014). Melons may also becom contaminated with foodborne pathogens during harvesting, packing, shipping, or preparation for consumption. During harvesting, mechanical damage resulting in wounds (e.g., punctures, cracks, bruising) may allow pathogen entry into the melon mesocarp tissue (i.e., edible flesh of the fruit) (US Food and Drug Administration 2013). Pathogen infiltration and adherence at the stem scar tissue (the end of the melon where the vine was removed), especially in cantaloupe, also can be problematic for food safety (US Food and Drug Administration 2013).

The characteristics and maturity of the melons can also influence the susceptibility to foodborne pathogen contamination. The characteristics of the melon rind, specifically the netted surfaces (cantaloupes), create a favorable environment for bacteria to grow and make it difficult to remove pathogens (Fu et al. 2020; Walsh et al. 2014). The maturity of the melon also can play a role in susceptibility because ripe melons may allow for better growth and survival of pathogens on their surfaces (Suslow 1997). Contamination on the surface of a melon may then be able to spread to the inside of the fruit once the melon is cut (Walsh et al. 2014).

This document serves as a reference for those concerned about the safety of melons, including cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon in the fresh and fresh-cut market. Outbreaks associated with melons in the United States, Canada, and Europe are highlighted with information regarding the location, pathogen, and incidence of illness. Six tables are presented, representing different melon types (Table 1, cantaloupe; Table 2, honeydew; and Table 3, watermelon), unspecified melon and mixed fruits including melon (Table 4), outbreaks suspected to be associated with different melon types, unspecified melon, and mixed fruits including melon (Table 5), and outbreaks associated with multiple foods including melons (Table 6).

 

Table 1. Outbreaks of foodborne disease associated with cantaloupe, 1997–2016*

Year

Month

Location

Pathogena

Location of Consumptionb

Cases (Deaths) b

Food Vehicle

References

1997

Feb–May

US (CA)

Salmonella Saphra

Private home, grocery store, restaurant

24 (0)

Cantaloupe

Mohle-Boetani et al. 1999

2000

April–June

US (multistate)

Salmonella Poona

Restaurant—other or unknown

47 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2001

April

US (OR)

Salmonella

Restaurant—other or unknown

2 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2001

April–May

US (multistate)

Salmonella Poona

Grocery store; other

50 (2)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2002

April

US (multistate)

Salmonella Poona

Private home/residence; grocery store; long-term care/nursing home/assisted-living facility

48 (NR)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2007

December

US (multistate)

Salmonella Litchfield

Restaurant—other or unknown

53 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2008

November

US (multistate)

Salmonella Javiana

NR

10 (NR)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2008

December

US (CA)

Norovirus

Restaurant

23 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2011

February

US (multistate)

Salmonella Panama

Private home

20 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2011

June

US (multistate)

Salmonella

Uganda

NR

25 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2011

July

US (multistate)

L. monocytogenes

Private home

147 (33)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2011

August–October

US (multistate)

L. monocytogenes

Grocery retailer

147 (33)

Cantaloupe

McCollum et al. 2013

2012

July

US (multistate)

Salmonella

Newport

Private home/residence

24 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2012

July

US (multistate)

Salmonella

Newport

Private home/residence

33 (1)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2012

July

US (multistate)

Salmonella

Typhimurium

NR

14 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2012

July–September

US (multistate)

Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Newport

Private home/residence; all sourced from same farm

261 (3)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2013

April

US (IN)

Salmonella

Typhimurium and Salmonella Typhimurium

NR

14 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2014

April

US (multistate)

Salmonella Baildon

Private home/residence

20 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2016

June

US (multistate)

Salmonella Minnesota

Restaurant—Sit-down dining; private home/residence; grocery store

10 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

a Pathogens abbreviated and associated with outbreaks include E. (Escherichia), L. (Listeria)

b NR: Not Reported

*Table was last updated on 5-3-2021. The most recent data published by the CDC indicates that there have been no outbreaks since 2016.

Table 2. Outbreaks of foodborne disease associated with honeydew, 2003*

Year

Month

Location

Pathogen

Location of Consumption

Cases (Deaths)

Food Vehicle

References

2003

January

US (multistate)

Salmonella Newport

Restaurant—other or unknown type; private home/residence; caterer (food prepared off-site from where served); grocery store; long-term care/nursing home/assisted living facility; hospital

68 (2)

Honeydew

CDC 2018

2003

September

US (CO)

Shigella sonnei

Restaurant—other or unknown

56 (0)

Honeydew

CDC 2018

*Table was last updated on 5-3-2021. The most recent data published by the CDC indicates that there have been no outbreaks since 2003.

 

Table 3. Outbreaks of foodborne disease associated with watermelon, 1950–2017*

Year

Month

Location

Pathogena

Location of Consumption

Cases (Deaths)

Food Vehicle

References

1950

NRc

US (MN)

Salmonella Bareilly

Roadside stand

6 (0)

Watermelon, cut

Gayler et al. 1955

 

1954

June

US (MA)

Salmonella Miami

Supermarket

17 (1)

Watermelon, cut

Gayler et al. 1955

1979

NR

US (IL)

Salmonella Oranienburg

Supermarket

6 (0)

Watermelon

CDC 1979

1987

NR

Sweden

Shigella sonnei

Dinner party

15 (0)

Watermelon

FAO 2011

1991

June

US (MI)

Salmonella Javiana

Indoor picnic/school party; grocery retailer

39 (0)

Watermelon

Bolstein 1993

1993

NR

US

Salmonella Javiana

Private home, church

27 (0)

Watermelon

Del Rosario and Beuchat 1995

2000

July

US (WI)

E. coli O157:H7

Restaurant

736 (1)

Watermelon

CDC 2018

2005

July

US (ID)

Norovirus

Camp

18 (0)

Watermelon

CDC 2018

2006

July

US (CA)

Norovirus

Grocery store

14 (0)

Watermelon

CDC 2018

2006

July

US (VA)

Camplyobacter jejuni

Other

15 (0)

Watermelon

CDC 2018

2006

August

US (NY)

Salmonella Newport

Restaurant

20 (0)

Watermelon

CDC 2018

2008

October

US (CA)

Salmonella Javiana

Other

594 (0)

Watermelon

CDC 2018

2010

July

US (MI)

Salmonella

Saintpaul

Private home/residence; grocery store

17 (0)

Watermelon

CDC2018

2011

August

US (MN)

Salmonella Typhimurium

Private home/residence

15 (0)

Watermelon

CDC 2018

2017

June

US (Multistate)

Salmonella Newport

Unknown

20 (0)

Watermelon

CDC 2018

2017

July

US (PA)

Salmonella Newport

Private home/residence

13 (0)

Watermelon

CDC 2018

a Pathogens abbreviated and associated with outbreaks include E. (Escherichia)

*Table was last updated on 5-3-2021. The most recent data published by the CDC indicates that there have been no outbreaks since 2017.

 

Table 4. Foodborne Illness Outbreaks Associated with Unspecified Melons and Mixed Fruit (including melon), 1998–2019*

Year

Month

Location

Pathogen

Location of Consumption

Cases (Deaths)

Food Vehicle

References

1998

August

US (IA)

Norovirus

Restaurant—other or unknown type

41 (0)

Strawberries; honeydew

CDC 2018

1999

May

US (WI)

Norovirus

Restaurant

23 (0)

Melon (unspecified), pineapple, watermelon

CDC 2018

1999

July

US (CA)

Salmonella Enteritidis

School

82 (0)

Honeydew, watermelon

CDC 2018

1999

June

US (IA)

Norovirus

Restaurant

61 (0)

Cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon

CDC 2018

2000

June

US (CO)

Salmonella Heidelberg

Restaurant

4 (0)

Melon (unspecified)

CDC 2018

2001

January

US (KS)

Norovirus

Restaurant

36 (0)

Cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple

CDC 2018

2001

March

US (MN)

Norovirus

Office/indoor workplace

42 (0)

Cantaloupe, pineapple, unspecified

CDC 2018

2001

June

US (CA)

Salmonella Poona

Daycare, picnic, private home, restaurant

23 (0)

Honeydew, musk melon, watermelon

CDC 2018

2002

January

US (MN)

Norovirus

Restaurant

15 (0)

Strawberries; melon, unspecified; pineapple, unspecified

CDC 2018

2002

September

US (WA)

Salmonella Berta

Caterer (food prepared off-site from where served)

29 (0)

Cantaloupe, grapes, watermelon

CDC 2018

2003

May

US (multistate)

Salmonella Muenchen

Daycare, private home, grocery store

58 (0)

Cantaloupe, honeydew

CDC 2018

2003

August

US (FL)

Norovirus

Nursing home

16(0)

Cantaloupe, banana, pineapple

CDC 2018

2004

June

US (WI)

Norovirus

Church

34 (0)

Honeydew, musk melon, watermelon

CDC 2018

2004

March

US (KS)

Norovirus

School/college/university

100 (0)

Cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon

CDC 2018

2008

August

US (CO)

Salmonella Newport

Private home

3 (0)

Cantaloupe, watermelon

CDC 2018

2011

April

US (GA)

Norovirus

Banquet Facility (food prepared and served on-site)

22 (0)

pineapple, unspecified; cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2011

June

US (OR)

Salmonella Typhimurium

Private home/residence; Child day care

6 (0)

Cantaloupe & strawberry mix

CDC 2018

2015

February

US (OH)

Norovirus GII.4 Sydney

Restaurant—sit-down dining; private home/residence

35 (0)

Cantaloupe, pineapple, unspecified; grapes

CDC 2018

2016

September

US (OR)

Norovirus GII.4 untypeable

Banquet facility (food prepared and served on-site)

26 (0)

Strawberries; cantaloupe; honeydew

CDC 2018

2017

October

US (multistate)

Salmonella Newport

Unknown

24 (1)

Melon, unspecified

CDC 2018

2018

April

US (multistate)

Salmonella Adelaide

Other

77 (1)

Melon, unspecified

CDC 2018

2019

March–May

US (multistate)

Salmonella

Carrau

Grocery store

137 (0)

Watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, fruit medley (containing one of these melons)

CDC 2019

2019

November–January

US (multistate)

Salmonella

Javiana

Long-term care facilities, hospitals, hotels, schools, and grocery stores

165 (0)

Honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple, and grapes

CDC 2020

*Table was last updated on 5-3-2021. The most recent data published by the CDC indicates that there have been no outbreaks since 2019.

Table 5. Foodborne illness outbreaks suspected to be associated with cantaloupe, honeydew, or watermelon or with unspecified melons, or mixed fruit (including melon), 1987–2017*

Year

Month

Location

Pathogena

Location of Consumptionb

Cases (deaths)

Suspected Food Vehicle

References

1987

NRb

UK

Norovirus

NR

206 (0)

Melon (unspecified)

FDA 2009

1990

January

US (multistate)

Salmonella Chester

Restaurant salad bars

245 (2)

Cantaloupe

Ries, Zaza, and Langkop 1990

1991

June

US (IL, MI) and Canada

Salmonella Poona

Grocery stores, restaurants

400 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 1991

1993

NR

US

Campylobacter jejuni

Food service

48 (0)

Melon (unspecified), strawberries

FAO 2011

1997

NR

US (OR)

E. coli O157:H7

Restaurant

9 (0)

Cantaloupe

FDA 2009

1998

May–June

Canada (ON)

Salmonella Oranienburg

Supermarket

22 (0)

Cantaloupe

Deeks et al. 1998

1998

August

US (IA)

Norovirus

Restaurant

14 (0)

Honeydew, strawberries

CDC n.d.

1999

September

US (MN)

Norovirus

Restaurant

5 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2000

May

US (IL)

Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus

Church, temple

55 (0)

Melon (unspecified)

CDC 2018

2001

January

US (CO)

Norovirus

Restaurant

100 (1)

Honeydew, pineapple

CDC 2018

2001

March

US (MN)

Norovirus

Workplace

42 (0)

Cantaloupe, pineapple

CDC n.d.

2001

March

US (FL)

NR

NR

33 (0)

Melon (unspecified)

CDC n.d.

2001

June

US (WA)

NR

Restaurant

4 (0)

Cantaloupe, pineapple

CDC n.d.

2001

December

US (OR)

Salmonella spp.

Nursing home, home care, restaurant

2 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC n.d.

2002

March–May

US (multistate), Canada

Salmonella Poona

Nursing home, home care, private home

58 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2002

2002

June

US (DC)

NR

NR

11 (0)

Watermelon, strawberries

CDC n.d.

2004

NR

US (NR)

E. coli O157:H7

NR

6 (0)

Cantaloupe

FAO 2011

2004

April

US (CO)

Norovirus

Nursing home, home care

62 (0)

Melon (unspecified), house salad, strawberries

CDC n.d.

2004

November

US (CA)

Norovirus

Other

30 (0)

Cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon

CDC 2018

2006

April

US (CA)

Norovirus

Other

108 (0)

Mixed fruit; sandwich, beef

CDC 2018

2006

June–July

US (multistate), Canada (ON)

Salmonella Oranienburg

Grocery store, health care facility, nursing home

41 (0)

Cantaloupe, honeydew, fruit salad

CDC 2007

2007

NR

US

Salmonella Litchfield

Private home, restaurant

11 (0)

Honeydew

FAO 2011

2007

February

US (MI)

NR

Banquet facility

8 (0)

Cantaloupe, watermelon

CDC n.d.

2007

May–June

US (NJ)

Salmonella Litchfield

Hotel restaurant

30 (0)

Fruit salad, honeydew

CDC 2008b

2007

September

US (MN)

Norovirus

Private home

12 (0)

Grapes, unspecified; pineapple, unspecified; watermelon; cake, unspecified

CDC 2018

2008

January–March

US (multistate), Canada

Salmonella Litchfield

Hospital, private home

51 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2008a

2008

June

US (MN)

Norovirus

Private home, grocery store

3 (0)

Brie, unspecified; sauces, unspecified; pineapple, unspecified; cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2009

February

US (multistate)

Salmonella Carrau

Private home

53 (1)

Cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon

PHAC 2009; Nielsen et al. 2010

2013

May

US (MN)

Salmonella

Private home

7 (0)

Watermelon

CDC 2018

2013

May

US (MN)

Norovirus

Restaurant—sit-down dining

59 (0)

Cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2017

January

US (MN)

Norovirus

Long-term care/nursing home/assisted-living facility

9 (0)

Mixed cut fruit

CDC 2018

a Pathogens abbreviated and associated with outbreaks include E. (Escherichia)

b NR: Not Reported

*Table was last updated on 5-3-2021. The most recent data published by the CDC indicates that there have been no outbreaks since 2017.

 

Table 6. Foodborne illness outbreaks associated with multiple foods (including melons), 2000–2016*

Year

Month

Location

Pathogena

Location of Consumption

Cases (deaths)

Food Vehicle

Reference

2000

June

US (MN)

Norovirus

Caterer (food prepared off-site from where served)

33 (0)

Sandwich, turkey; cantaloupe

CDC 2018

2002

April

US (DC)

Staphylococcus aureus

Other

8 (0)

Other cheese, pasteurized; honeydew melon; potato, fried

CDC 2018

2002

August

US (SC)

Salmonella Heidelberg

Prison/jail

26 (0)

Watermelon; ground beef, hamburger; biscuit, unspecified

CDC 2018

2004

April

US (CO)

Norovirus

Long-term care/nursing home/assisted-living facility

62 (0)

Strawberries; melon, unspecified; house salad

CDC 2018

2005

March

 

US (WA)

Norovirus

Private home/residence; caterer (food prepared off-site from where served); other

20 (0)

Dips, unspecified; strawberries; melon, unspecified

CDC 2018

2005

May

US (UT)

Salmonella Enteritidis

Private home/residence

126 (0)

Cantaloupe; chicken, bbq; corned beef, unspecified

CDC 2018

2005

July

US (CO)

Salmonella Newport

Unknown

24 (1)

Cantaloupe; ground beef, unspecified

CDC 2018

2006

May

US (CO)

Salmonella Typhimurium var Cope

Restaurant—other or unknown type

7 (0)

Chicken; watermelon

CDC 2018

2006

August

US (NY)

Salmonella Newport

Other

12 (0)

Honeydew melon; plum, unspecified; pizza, unspecified; cheese, unspecified

CDC 2018

2007

January

US (CO)

Norovirus

Banquet facility (food prepared and served on-site); grocery store

19 (0)

Honeydew, caramel rolls

CDC 2018

2007

May

US (NJ)

Salmonella Litchfield

Restaurant—other or unknown type

30 (0)

Fruit salad; green salad; cantaloupe; honeydew melon; grapes, unspecified

CDC 2018

2007

November

US (IA)

Norovirus

Restaurant—other or unknown type; other

44 (0)

Mixed fruit

CDC 2018

2008

July

US (GA)

Norovirus

Private home/residence; Caterer (food prepared off-site from where served)

27 (0)

Other cheese, pasteurized; watermelon; grapes, unspecified

CDC 2018

2008

August

US (CO)

E. coli O157:H7

Grocery store; other

5 (0)

Cantaloupe; ground beef, hamburger

CDC 2018

2009

February

US (multistate)

Salmonella Carrau

Grocery store

53 (1)

Melon

CDC 2018

2009

July

US (OR)

Norovirus

Caterer (food prepared off-site from where served)

18 (0)

Rolls; watermelon; cheese/roll

CDC 2018

2010

February

US (MO)

Norovirus

Banquet facility (food prepared and served on-site)

139 (0)

Fruit salad

CDC 2018

2010

April

US (WY)

Norovirus

Banquet facility (food prepared and served on-site); other

33 (0)

Multiple salads; unspecified fish; couscous; zucchini; mousse; water; ice; soup, other vegetable-based; soup, specialty, other; enchiladas; red salsa; chips, tortilla; ranch dressing; refried beans, unspecified; melon, unspecified; cake; salad dressings; pork, sweet and sour; mixed vegetables; egg rolls; banana, unspecified; cookies

CDC 2018

2011

July

US (MN)

E. coli O157:H7

Private home/residence

6 (0)

Fruit

CDC 2018

2014

June

US (WI)

Norovirus

Caterer (food prepared off-site from where served)

21 (0)

Fruit platter

CDC 2018

2016

May

US (NY)

Norovirus

Banquet facility (food prepared and served on-site)

136 (0)

Mixed cut fruit; crudites

CDC 2018

2016

July

US (WV)

Salmonella Heidelberg

Private home/residence

4 (0)

Chicken; cantaloupe; eggs

CDC 2018

a Pathogens abbreviated and associated with outbreaks include E. (Escherichia)

*Table was last updated on 5-3-2021. The most recent data published by the CDC indicates that there have been no outbreaks since 2016.

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Peer Reviewed

Publication #FSHN14-11

Date: 2021-08-04
Danyluk, Michelle D
Schneider, Keith R
Krug, Matthew
Food Science and Human Nutrition

Related Topics

Fact Sheet General Public

About this Publication

This document is FSHN14-11, one of a series of the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 2014. Revised August 2021. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Clara Morgan Diekman, graduate student, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred, FL; Matthew D Krug, state specialized agent, food science, UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, Immokalee, FL; Ashley T. Myers, former graduate student, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred, FL; Rachel McEgan, former research assistant, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred, FL; Keith R. Schneider, professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department; and Michelle D. Danyluk, professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred, FL; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Contacts

  • Keith Schneider
  • Michelle Danyluk