At least 60 people have been sickened and dozens have been hospitalized with salmonella after tainted pre-cut melons were distributed to stores such as Walmart, Kroger, Costco and Whole Foods in several states, federal officials said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced the outbreak to a Caito Foods facility in Indiana. The company has since issued a recall notice in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio — removing clear plastic containers of watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe and mixed melons from the shelves.
The recall affected at least 10 large grocery chains, including Whole Foods, which is a subsidiary of Amazon.com, whose chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.
“The investigation is ongoing to determine if products went to additional stores or states,” the CDC wrote Friday.
People who ate those pre-cut melon products began falling ill with the salmonella adelaide strain of the bacteria in late April, and hospitalization spiked two weeks later, with patients ranging from an infant to a 97-year-old.
So far, the CDC said, 31 of 60 victims have been hospitalized, though none have died.
The food-borne bacteria sickens more than 1 million people annually in the United States, most commonly presenting as temporary fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain.
Other symptoms can be much worse for young children and people over 65, however, and the CDC estimates about 450 people die of salmonella each year.
The reported patient count in the latest outbreak could still climb, and is already higher than a wave of salmonella that hit the East Coast last spring, which was linked to a rodent-infested egg farm.
Still, the current salmonella outbreak is minor compared to past events — such as a 2010 outbreak in which more than 1,500 people fell ill, or a peanut contamination one year earlier, which was linked to nine deaths.
The melon warning comes days after the apparent end of an E. coli bacteria outbreak that killed five people, sent about 200 to hospitals and resulted in a nationwide warning against eating romaine lettuce.