September 29, 2011

Death by cantaloupe.

Do you realize that before cutting into a cantaloupe, you're supposed to scrub it with a brush and dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel? Do you even rinse that thing? Or do you think because you're not going to eat the rind, you don't need to worry about the listeria lurking in its rough reticulation?

81 comments:

rhhardin said...

When life hands you melons, make melonade.

Issob Morocco said...

Yes, I do clean melons as they sit on the ground, which is the worst potential for contamination.

Common sense says always rinse plants which are fresh from fields or packed right from the field.

X said...

to paraphrase the new PETA campaign:

Payback is hell, vegans.

Coketown said...

My grandparents taught my mom who taught me to thoroughly wash all fruits and veggies before eating them. It's like the egg outbreak of, what was it, salmonella a few years ago. If people had prepared the food properly, meaning TREAT THE RAW EGGS LIKE RAW EGGS AND COOK THE DAMN THINGS, they wouldn't have gotten sick.

I can't help but think maybe the FDA gives people a false sense of security so far as the safety of our food supply goes.

YoungHegelian said...

"listeria lurking in its rough reticulation?"

Channeling the spirit of Swinburne today, are we, Professor?

BarryD said...

I grew up in the Southwest. When you see a field with 35 or more people in it, many migrating to and from the nearby Third World, and no bathrooms, you gain a new respect for the ground where those melons sit...

rhhardin said...

Colorado is where the deer and the cantaloupe play.

Pat Bay said...

Of course, once you've use a clean cloth to wipe your cantaloupe, the cloth ain't clean anymore. Better wash it in hot water to sterilize it again.

Or use a paper towel instead and toss it into the trash right away.

Why does the FDA hate Mother earth?

CharlesVegas said...

I think attention is being focused on a bio-waste firm that applied their eco-friendly human waste fertilizer to a field adjacent to the Jensen Farms fields from which the contaminated cantaloupes originated.

Article here.

cubanbob said...

BarryD said...
I grew up in the Southwest. When you see a field with 35 or more people in it, many migrating to and from the nearby Third World, and no bathrooms, you gain a new respect for the ground where those melons sit...

9/29/11 11:56 AM

And the reason to get vaccinated against hepatitis A.

Paddy O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E.M. Davis said...

When life hands you melons, make melonoma.

Paddy O said...

I spend most of my life worrying about listeria lurking in rough reticulations.

I think of it now as one of my strengths.

Chef Mojo said...

At the restaurant, I wash them and then dip them in quaternary solution.

After that, there ain't nothing alive on that melon rind.

PatCA said...

My mother taught me that...I thought it was just folklore.

Mom knows best!

Paddy O said...

My wife has a friend whose family owns an apple orchard in Washington. One of the uncles in that family exclusively sells "organic" apples.

When asked why, he said that the only difference between apples sold as "organic" and regular apples is that the regular apples are cleaned after they are picked and he can charge a lot more for the dirty apples.

MayBee said...

This is something the fresh fruits are healthy fruits crowd rarely discusses.

Quaestor said...

Or use a paper towel instead and toss it into the trash right away.

Then be sure to remove the trash immediately. Better yet seal the on filthy and listeria-ridden towel in one of those big yellow bags with the prominent bio-hazard symbol, put it on the curb and call the local hazmat team for immediate isolation and disposal. And be sure to use tongs!

Chuck66 said...

I'll risk death.

ark said...

@rhhardin: Isn't that the beer and the canteloupe?

traditionalguy said...

And always buckle your seat belt.

Steve said...

Everyone cuts corners.

Don't clean the melons after picking. Hire cheap illegal labor....

Chuck66 said...

Coketown, that is how I feel about people getting sick from meat or eggs. Granted, you don't blame the victim, and some results include death or paralysis, but still. Cook your meat until there is no red and no blood coming out. Wash your hands after handling meat. Don't prepare your salad next to where you are cutting up your meat. Death is much less likely if you follow the rules.

pogo101 said...

"X said...
"to paraphrase the new PETA campaign:
"Payback is hell, vegans."

X wins the thread.

timmaguire42 said...

I wash all fruit, with soap if plausible (yes for apples, no for strawberries). Cantaloupes fall somewhere in between, but with a brush? Never.

Quaestor said...

Joking aside, about these cantaloupe-related deaths, are they sure the victims died from eating unwashed fruit, or is it possible they got exposed by sniffing? Since like for ever food writers and TV personalities have advised people on how to choose cantaloupe that are at their peak of flavor by sniffing the stem end.

Fred4Pres said...

Well, shit happens. And it gets on your mellons.

timmaguire42 said...

Paddy O, your wife's friend should exercise a little judgment in who she tells that story too. Otherwise, her uncle might wind up in jail for fraud.

Calypso Facto said...

Most at risk: organic and raw foodies.

Also: 13 deaths is the 3rd leading outbreak since records have been kept (ca. 1970)? Talk about a non-issue. More than a billion dollars/death/year in gov't spending.

And "most of those who died were over 60. At least two were over 90." What would the death panels say about this level of spending in the failed attempt to save some oldsters?

Surfed said...

Deep in the heart of bear country in the Smokey Mnts we were camped at a primitive backwood site. The few tables were embossed with warnings to not feed the bears. Fair enough. But what caught our eye were the three specific foods that we were to deny the large animals. Chicken, hot dogs and watermelon rind. Listeria for Ursidae?

Quaestor said...

It seems to me that a brushing vigorous enough to dislodge bacteria lurking deep in the nooks and crannies of a melon rind would simply abrade the outer skin right off and contaminate the inner flesh just as sure as slicing an unwashed fruit.

chickenlittle said...

Bacteria are the ultimate source of vitamin B12, so I rarely wash fruit.

MadisonMan said...

And the reason to get vaccinated against hepatitis A.

The virus that causes Hep A is not going to survive for very long outside the body. Certainly not the time it takes to pick the melon and ship it. If that's your reason to get a Hep A vaccine, you are worrying for naught.

Bacteria, such as those that cause listeria, are far more hardy.

My Dad, the bacteriologist, washes individual strawberries before eating them. Drives me crazy.

Jennifer said...

Sometimes I wash them with soap and water, and sometimes I get lazy and just rinse them.

I have never, however, felt old just for eating canteloupe. Thanks for that, article.

Jennifer said...

I wash individual strawberries, MadMan! I do, however, get lazy about grapes and just spray them off. Why the distinction, I wonder.

Coketown said...

If I were 90 and found out I died from eating cantaloupe, I don't think I'd be terribly upset. They're really good! Nom nom nom nom nom.

Quaestor said...

Chicken, hot dogs and watermelon rind. Listeria for Ursidae?

Chicken - salmonella, hormones and prions

Melon rind - Listeria, Casuarina, Allocasuarina, Azospirillum, etc.

Hotdogs - lips, butts, cheeks, who the hell knows what?

Yeah, bears should stay away from the trash humans eat.

Surfed said...

@Quaestor

Chicken - easily splintered bones

Hot Dogs - nitrates

Watermelon rind - listeria?

Quaestor said...

If I were 90 and found out I died from eating cantaloupe, I don't think I'd be terribly upset.

Probably better than busting a gut trying to lift a television over one's head. Mandelbuam! Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum!

nompr - the living dead who steal your identity

bagoh20 said...

Where has everyone been hiding the corpses?

sane_voter said...

I thought that rule about cooking meat until medium well was for ground beef, not steaks. The e_coli is on the outside of the steak, and if the outside is cooked well then it doesnt matter how done the inside is. Of course with ground beef it's all mixed together.

Quaestor said...

@ Surfed

A Joke, ok?

Personally, I don't lie awake worrying about bears having problems with chicken bones.

And it's nitrites that are in hotdogs, not nitrates.

Quaestor said...

Where has everyone been hiding the corpses?

Out in the delphinium bed is my choice. Best fertilizer there is.

Fred4Pres said...

I have washed fresh greens in other parts of the world with a diluted solution of bleach. Not exactly "organic" but it does work to avoid an extended visit the porcelin throne.

But my mom was always big on washing all fresh fruit and veggies with white vinegar. Given most bacteria do not like an acid bath (obviously there are exceptions to that given stomach bacteria, but it is generally true). I think it is prudent to give anything you are going to put in your mouth a wash, because even if you get off a lot of the bacteria (or the toxins associated with bacteria) you are better off.

As they say, less is more.

Paddy O said...

tim, it's not fraud as certified 'organic' is a nebulous term that means more to consumers than it does to growers and certifiers.

I was told her uncle follows all the prescribed rules, it's just that the prescribed rules basically boil down to what he said.

Paddy O said...

"Mandelbaum!"

It's go time!

Quaestor said...

@ Surfed

The PETA-fiend who made that placard warning against feeding bears chicken, hotdogs and watermelon rind was probably worried that the bears would get an uncomfortable flatulence from eating the green part.

Yes, definitely keep the disgusting junk food from the lips of poor, easily misguided ursines. The proper and natural bear diet is small pets and children, so be sure to bag your trash and stake out Baby Sally and Bowser when leaving the Park.

Fred4Pres said...

I still eat raw shellfish and seafood, rare steaks, and undercooked eggs (it is crime to over cook eggs). But I know my sources. I wash the outsides of things before I eat them (well not the oysters after I open them, but certainly the shells before).

Use common sense. Eventually you may have a bad time of it, but most people do not get deadly infections, they get a touch of the runs.

We are evolved from a race of chimps that ate what ever we could find, including the equivalent of Paleocene road kill (There is nothing more tasty than getting some protein and marrow from a half eaten wildebeat festering on the hot plains of Africa). We are tougher than you think.

bagoh20 said...

I don't wash anything I eat, fruit, vegetables, women. I eat meat red in the middle and undercooked eggs. Always have, and many people do everyday.
Stop being pussies.

People are dying on the roads of your city today and you will throw your kids in the car anyway and go get some dangerous vegetables to wash.

The dirtiest things in your house are your hands and mouth. When your eat a dirty vegetable you are actually cleaning your foul pie hole. Enjoy!

Psychedelic George said...

Man, that ain't nothin'.

Yesterday at my farmer's market I bought a purple puffball from a guy.

He said he'd been feeding him to his wife.

But he added he'd been eating them, too.

gerry said...

Where is oligonicella when you have a need to know biological stuff?

Quaestor said...

When your eat a dirty vegetable you are actually cleaning your foul pie hole. Enjoy!

Yeah! It go time! Gimme some of that rare Pleistocene roadkill, and don't spare the grit!

gerry said...

We are evolved from a race of chimps that ate what ever we could find, including the equivalent of Paleocene road kill (There is nothing more tasty than getting some protein and marrow from a half eaten wildebeat festering on the hot plains of Africa). We are tougher than you think.

True. But my very late evolutionary ancestor only lived a short time, too. With lots of diarrhea, probably.

Surfed said...

@Quaestor - This is an example of a joke: Do you by any chance sit on the Wisconsin Supreme Court?

edutcher said...

I saw the title and thought, "Oh, yeah, that's the one where Truman Capote ends up murdered".

Fred4Pres said...

Well, shit happens. And it gets on your mellons.

Melons are safe if they're carried in Playtex.

Quaestor said...

Yesterday at my farmer's market I bought a purple puffball from a guy.

Well eat that thing quick, they don't last (Unless you dry them, but dried puffballs don't taste nearly so good.)

Sautée lightly in real butter with a touch of garlic. Fabulous! You'll look at button mushrooms as peasant food from then on. Puffballs are only available in the until the last warm days of autumn, after that the spores ripen and they're not edible. Seek! find! eat!

BJM said...

It's not just humans in the fields that spread contamination. The fields are full of wild & domestic critters at night, pooping, peeing and eating each other in the cantaloupe patch.

Then there's the kids in the produce section of the store fingering everything they can reach with one hand while other is jammed in their mouth or up their nose.

I too use a quaternary compound and have done for years...it became second nature when i lived overseas.

Just google veggie wash and you'll find all sorts of inexpensive, non-toxic natural products as well as a couple by Clorox.

Quaestor said...

@ Surfed

Please be my guest and worry about easily splintered poultry bones to your heart's content. I'm sure your fretting will more than make up for my indifference.

Amy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amy said...

When I was on chemotherapy and my white blood count was very low (immune system therefore compromised), there were strict instructions not to eat any raw fruit/veg that could not be scrubbed well. I would think that perhaps the same advice would apply to the very elderly.

9/29/11 1:36 PM

Ron said...

Honey! Don't!

deborah said...

Good one, Ron.

Speaking of prions, I've heard they've been associated with Altzheimer's, as well as Mad Cow.

deborah said...

Cross your heart, ed?

gail said...

We've had to deal with occassional listeria in calves, where it's commonly referred to as "circling disease" since the infected animal has difficulty walking a straight line. Massive doses of antibiotics usually saves the animal.

No, we don't feed melons to the animals. Listeria is naturally in the soil and sometimes soil ends up in hay or silage.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Cook your meat until there is no red and no blood coming out.

No way!! I won't ever eat well done beef or lamb. Yucko. I even cook my pork to a medium level, still slightly pink. The internal temperature is enough to kill any baddies. Chicken yes. Nothing worse than underdone chicken. Duck and goose should never be over cooked. Medium to medium rare for those.

Wash your hands after handling meat. Don't prepare your salad next to where you are cutting up your meat.

Absolutely. We have color coded chopping boards for chicken, beef, and everything else. Wash the knives well in between chopping various food items.

Get a salad spinner and wash the salad greens well and spin dry. Wash and spin the pre made salads as well. They are not always as clean as you think.

Always wash your fruits and vegetables even if they seem clean from the store.

People need to get over this giant phobia about germs and food. A little common sense goes a long way.
Just be clean and careful not to cross contaminate the food. It isn't rocket science.

My grandmother would tell us, when we may have dropped something on the floor. "Gonna eat a peck of dirt before you die." Don't know how much a peck is but it was impressive to us kids.

Robin said...

We seem to have lost all common sense about food safety in recent years.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

We would go to Mexico for the summer every year when I was younger. We always brought some packages of a powder that we would soak the fruits and vegetables in that was supposed to get rid of the bacteria.

Strawberries and other fruits that were not going to be peeled were especially set to be soaked for several hours before eating.

In all the years of living in Mexico, we only got the tourist trots one time and we think it was from drinking cokes that had been in an ice bath of contaminated water.

I imagine if you looked on line or in a restaurant supply house, you could find a similar chemical soak to use at home.

Fred4Pres said...

Prions are more of a risk if you are eating human brains.

You might want to avoid spinal and brain tissue from cows and especially wild game in the west. Deer and elk have a mad cow like disease and you do not want to be a test subject on cross over.

dbp said...

I have made fun of my wife for years about washing the outside of fruits and vegetables which will end up being cut up or peeled.

She never relented--saying, "If you wash it, it avoids dirt transference". She may be right about things like grit on potatoes when peeling them, though I rinse them after peeling anyway. I seriously doubt that you could wash all the germs off of the rough outer skin of a cantaloupe.

Like raw oysters, sometimes you just have to roll the dice.

Cedarford said...

FredforPrez - "We are evolved from a race of chimps that ate what ever we could find, including the equivalent of Paleocene road kill (There is nothing more tasty than getting some protein and marrow from a half eaten wildebeat festering on the hot plains of Africa). We are tougher than you think."

==============
The problem is not contaminated food!! as alarmists make it out to be. It is that a small chunk of the population lacks the developed immune systems of the rest of us. They tend, other than those with a medical ailment that weakens their immune system, to be from the secion of the population that had mothers that kept immaculate homes, that sanitized and washed everything.

Doctors long noted that farm kids regularly exposed to bacteria turned into the healthiest adults. Least likely people to get sick in the military, etc. when a bug was going around, or from the oft-tainted food large militaries frequently had to eat from Napoleon's day up to WWII.

As Fred said, we evolved as part-scavangers. Dining on festering Paleolithic roadkill and raw stuff we grabbed and ate with our unwashed never seen soap or disinfectent little primate hands fresh off us wiping our asses with them.
Normal people can handle the e-coli 'contaminated' hamburger, the 'deadly' samonella tomatoes, the 'lethal listeria' laden cantaloupes - no problem. The average person doesn't need to rinse anything, and "thoroughly cook if possible" - squat.

The only worry for a healthy person (98% of those eating the "food contamination outbreak foods" show no ill effect) is travelling overseas where you meet new forms if the same bugs (the Brazilian urban ecosystem version of samonella, etc.) or when something that you have no acquired immunity against - something new like cholera, schistmatosis, etc. But even then, if you have a good immune system, you have better odds of getting less sick than the "sickly people".

It would make more sense to raise kids with healthy immune systems that try and make the global food supply bacteria free or have government employees swabbing doorknobs and airport escalator rails and ordering "disinfecting regulations" - to "fight the deadly bacteria menance".

raf said...

Don't know how much a peck is ...

1 US bushel = 4 US pecks

Once was a time we all learned that in grade school.

wv: goelf. What a Tolkien cheerleader might say?

chickenlittle said...

The word cantaloupe appears to mean "singing wolf" in Italian dialect. When I was kid in Wisconsin we called it muskmelon.
I still prefer the latter and am inculcating my children thusly.

deborah said...

Yeah, I'd heard of the deer thing a while back, scary stuff.

caplight said...

Salvific reticulation!

caplight said...

"In all the years of living in Mexico, we only got the tourist trots one time and we think it was from drinking cokes that had been in an ice bath of contaminated water."

A few years ago I picked up giardia from a coke kept in an ice bath. The doctor, somewhat surprised, asked me if I had been in a third world country. I said, "Yes, Los Angeles."

But the barbecued lamb burrito was worth it.

Joanna said...

I don't want to live in a world where I can't eat my steak rare.

Christy said...

I come from people who pick tomatoes off the vine and take a bite, pull an apple off the tree and rub it on a shirt sleeve before taking a bite, and no, I don't wash a cantaloupe before cutting up.

HT said...

Quaestor said...

It seems to me that a brushing vigorous enough to dislodge bacteria lurking deep in the nooks and crannies of a melon rind would simply abrade the outer skin right off and contaminate the inner flesh just as sure as slicing an unwashed fruit.

9/29/11 12:27 PM

_____

Would this not be true for all fruits?

This has actually occurred to me eating peaches. What I decided to do was to peel the unwashed peach, then rinse off the "naked" peach.

Phil 3:14 said...

This will not be good for
Rocky Ford, Colorado

Fred4Pres said...

Ceadarford is right. George Carlin said he got immune to anything by swimnming in the East and Hudson Rivers as a kid. He was probably correct (unfortunately even his mightly immune system could not protect George from his own habits).

As a kid I played in the dirt. My mom did wash the veggies with vinegar, but later in life. As kids we pulled stuff off the vines and ate them all the time. We had pets. We caught wild animals and then let them go.

So when I do travel overseas I rarely get sick. Occasionally you catch something but for the most part, no serious problems.

BimBim said...

The problem is not contaminated food!! as alarmists make it out to be. It is that a small chunk of the population lacks the developed immune systems of the rest of us. They tend, other than those with a medical ailment that weakens their immune system, to be from the secion of the population that had mothers that kept immaculate homes, that sanitized and washed everything.
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