Investigators expand list of states potentially affected by melon recall

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As it continues to investigate a salmonella outbreak linked to pre-cut melons from an Indianapolis-based fruit distributor, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has greatly expanded the list of states where the potentially contaminated products might have been shipped.

On June 8, Indianapolis-based Caito Foods LLC issued a voluntary recall of plastic containers of cut watermelon, honeydew melon and cantaloupe, as well as combinations of those fruits.

Caito said the affected products were shipped between April 17 and June 7 to eight states: Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio.

Based on additional information received since then, the FDA has increased that list to include 15 additional states, or 23 in all. Those states are Alabama, California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

“Reports of illnesses linked to these products are under investigation, and Caito Foods is voluntarily recalling the products out of an abundance of caution,” Caito said in a written statement issued Monday.

Caito, located on North Post Road on the city’s east side, cuts, prepares and packages fruits, vegetable and other food items that it then distributes to retailers around the country.

The larger list of states does not represent an expansion of the original recall, the FDA said. No additional products have been added to the recall list, and no additional reports of illness have been received.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it knows of 60 cases of salmonella potentially linked to cut melon. Those cases are concentrated in five Midwestern states: 32 in Michigan, 11 in Indiana, 10 in Missouri, six in Illinois and one in Ohio. No deaths have been reported, but 31 of the 60 patients were hospitalized with their illness.

Caito’s corporate parent is Michigan-based SpartanNash Co. IBJ contacted SpartanNash Friday morning but did not receive a response from the company by deadline.

In response to a separate IBJ query about the recall sent earlier this week, SpartanNash issued the following statement on Monday afternoon:

"Caito Foods takes food safety seriously and is committed to following strict procedures regarding product handling and the cleaning and maintenance of our facilities to deliver the high quality products our customers have come to expect for more than 50 years. As soon as we became aware of the situation, and out of an abundance of caution, we voluntarily recalled all pre-cut melon from our distribution lines and stores, and instructed our partners to do the same. We continue to cooperate fully with the regulatory agencies on this matter, including their request to help determine the farm where the fruit was grown."

The CDC said the fruit was sold in clear clamshell containers at Costco, Jay C, Kroger, Payless, Owen's, Sprouts, Trader Joe's, Walgreens, Walmart and Whole Foods/Amazon.

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