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Australian rock melons linked to outbreak of human listeriosis recalled from stores in Singapore

Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has recalled Australian rock melons sold in stores in Singapore, which have been linked to an outbreak of human listeriosis in Australia.

The Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) had earlier notified AVA of a recall in Australia of whole rockmelons (cantaloupe). Following that, AVA worked with importers to remove the remaining unsold rockmelons from the implicated consignments and has completed the recall.

There has been no further import of rockmelons from the affected grower since, and import has been suspended, AVA noted.

According to AVA, two consignments of rockmelons from the implicated source were imported and were available for sale from 12 February to 2 March. The rockmelons originated from a specific grower in New South Wales, Australia in February.

It noted that the rockmelons from these consignments were being sold at Sheng Siong supermarket outlets and wet markets. Upon AVA’s notification, Sheng Siong voluntarily removed the implicated rockmelons.

All rockmelons that are currently available for sale are not implicated in the recall. To ensure food safety, AVA stated that it has taken samples of locally sold rockmelons from other sources for food safety tests, including testing for listeria.

AVA stressed that it is following up with FSANZ for updates on the case.

AVA advised consumers who suspect that they have purchased the implicated rockmelons within the affected time period not to consume it, adding that those who do not feel well after consumption should seek medical attention.

According to AVA, listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes. The bacteria is found in the environment, such as soil, water, effluents and the faeces of humans and animals.

Food items, which could be contaminated by the bacteria include raw or ready-to-eat foods, such as raw (unpasteurised) milk or raw meat and their products, seafood, and fresh produce including fruits and vegetables.

The incubation period of Listeria ranges from 3 to 70 days (typically 1 – 4 weeks). A person with mild listeriosis usually has fever and muscle aches, preceded by diarrhoea or other gastrointestinal symptoms.

Pregnant women, the elderly or individuals with a weakened immune system, i.e. people in immuno-compromised status due to AIDS, leukaemia, cancer, solid-organ transplant and steroid therapy, are at highest risk of serious disease which could include brain and heart infections or complications in the foetus/newborn.

Listeriosis is treatable with antibiotics if diagnosed early. The key to control lies in safe handling, cooking and consumption of food. As rock melons are typically eaten raw, thorough washing of the raw fruits is advisable before consumption.

AVA urged consumers to seek medical attention as early as possible if symptoms appear within 70 days after consuming Australian rock melon.