Aug. 18, 2012 at 1:43 PM ET
Federal and state health officials are warning consumers not to eat cantaloupe grown in southwestern Indiana after an outbreak of salmonella food poisoning that has led to 141 illnesses and two deaths in 20 states.
At least 31 people have been hospitalized in connection with infections caused by salmonella Typhimurium tied to contaminated melons, the Centers for Disease Control reported late Friday. Illnesses have been reported from July 7 to Aug. 4, although those that occurred after July 26 may not be included yet.
Investigators said cantaloupes grown in the southwestern Indiana region were the likely source of the outbreak. Kentucky laboratory officials isolated the outbreak strain from two melons collected at a retail location in that state. The deaths were reported in Kentucky.
Officials are continuing to investigate whether other types of melons may also be linked to the outbreak, the CDC said. Officials with the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration did not identify an Indiana farm where the suspect cantaloupes were grown, the distributors who handled them or the stores where the melons were sold. However, they said the farm in question has agreed to suspend sales for the rest of the growing season.
Fifty of the illnesses caused by the outbreak strain were confirmed in Kentucky, 17 were logged in Illinois and 13 in Indiana. Other states recorded fewer illnesses, with nine in Missouri; seven each in Alabama and Iowa; six each in Michigan and Tennessee; three each in Arkansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina; two each in California, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and one each in Georgia, New Jersey and Texas.
The outbreak comes a year after listeria-tainted cantaloupe grown in Colorado sickened at least 147 people and led to at least 30 deaths.
Earlier this month, Burch Farms, a North Carolina cantaloupe grower, recalled cantaloupe and honeydew melons because of listeria contamination.