McDONOUGH — An ongoing outbreak of foodborne illness linked to precut cantaloupe and watermelon purchased from grocery stores has caused 60 people in five states to become ill and about half of those to become hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To help consumers prepare melons safely at home, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Foods Specialist Judy Harrison offers this advice:
• When purchasing whole melons, choose fruits with no sunken or dark spots.
• Before cutting a melon, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and pay special attention to the areas between your fingers and around your nails.
• Wash the outside of the melon under clean, running water. Use a clean produce brush to scrub the surface, then rinse it well.
• Use a clean cutting board and clean knife to cut the melon on a clean countertop.
• Once the melon is cut, either serve it immediately or refrigerate it immediately. The juicy surfaces of cut melons are great places for bacteria to multiply if conditions are warm. When melons are cut, they must be kept cold.
• Don’t buy melons that are already cut or sliced unless they have been on ice or kept refrigerated.
• Throw cut or sliced melons away if they have been at room temperature for more than two hours or have sat out in temperatures at or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.
For more information on how to safely prepare and store foods, contact your UGA Family and Consumer Sciences agent at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 or review UGA Extension publications available at extension.uga.edu/publications.
Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.