NSW Health and the NSW Food Authority are investigating an outbreak of listeriosis in New South Wales, thought to be linked to locally grown rockmelon.
The organisation, together with the NSW Food Authority issued a warning last week for “high risk groups” to be wary of foods that cause listeriosis after a sudden increase in cases across the state this year.
The two government bodies are investigating 14 cases of the infection reported to date, including three deaths, all of which have affected people in high risk groups.
Produce Marketing Association Australia – New Zealand (PMA A-NZ) issued a fact sheet earlier today saying Listeria monocytogenes had been found on a number of rockmelons from a NSW supplier.
“While the link between the farm and the illness cases is not yet conclusive, there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to warn at-risk consumers not to consume rockmelon,” the statement said.
A number of retailers have withdrawn rockmelons from retail sale as a precaution.
Listeriosis is caused by eating food contaminated with a bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes, which is extremely harmful to those who are older, pregnant or have underlying health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, heart and kidney disease.
NSW Health director communicable diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said all 14 cases this year are in people with significant underlying medical conditions, and most are over 65 years of age.
“We’re working closely with the NSW Food Authority to determine the source of the infections. With this growing number of cases, it’s timely for us to remind people in high risk groups to avoid foods that cause listeriosis,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“Eating foods that contain Listeria bacteria does not cause illness in most people, but in higher risk groups it can result in severe illness and even death so it’s vitally important these people take extra care at all times.”
According to PMA A-NZ, rockmelons (and other foods) have been implicated in listeriosis outbreaks in Australia and internationally and were naturally a high priority in the investigation.
“There are many ‘types’ of Listeria monocytogenes and for the outbreak to be linked to a particular food, the DNA finger print of the pathogen must be the same as the Listeria associated with the illnesses and the food,” the PMA A-NZ sheet said.
“This link has not been confirmed but New South Wales Food Authority has advised this afternoon that there is sufficient information to issue general advice to the elderly and immunocompromised to avoid consuming any rockmelons they have purchased.”
More information can be found at NSW Health.
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