03 August 2016

NSW Health is warning people to not consume rockmelon that is being recalled while an investigation into the source of a national outbreak of a rare strain of Salmonella is underway.

There have been 86 reported cases of Salmonella Hvittingfoss (S. Hvittingfoss) nationally, 43 of these reported in NSW between June 14 and August 1, 2016. The affected people are of varied ages, but 49 per cent (21) of the cases in NSW were in children under five years old.

By comparison, between 2011 and 2016, NSW received an average of fewer than two notifications of S. Hvittingfoss per month.

The NSW Food Authority advises that the Northern Territory based company “Red Dirt” will undertake a trade level recall of their product after detection of Salmonella bacteria by South Australian authorities on Tuesday 2 August. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has issued a warning that consumers, especially infants, the elderly, pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems, should not consume rockmelon while the investigation continues.

Dr Jeremy McAnulty, Director of Health Protection NSW, said NSW Health was working closely with the NSW Food Authority and other jurisdictions on an investigation into possible food sources.

“Although the source of the outbreak at this stage is still unclear, consumption of rockmelon is common to many of the patients in NSW,” Dr McAnulty said.

“As a precaution, anyone who may have rockmelon in their home and is unsure of its origin should not eat the product.

“Salmonella infection is mainly caused by eating contaminated food. Infection causes gastroenteritis and in some people, particularly young babies, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, it can be severe and require hospitalisation for dehydration.

“Like many other fresh foods, sliced melons can be easily contaminated with Salmonella bacteria and should be kept refrigerated.

“Symptoms of salmonellosis include fever, headache, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting. Symptoms usually begin from about six to 72 hours after eating the contaminated food and usually last for four to seven days. However they can last a lot longer.”

In Australia, most Salmonella infections occur after eating contaminated food or sometimes after contact with another person with the infection. Safe food handling including thorough cooking of meat, poultry and eggs and good hand hygiene can prevent infection.

For further information, visit Salmonellosis.​