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Indiana farm linked to salmonella-tainted melons

OWENSVILLE, Ind. — A southwestern Indiana cantaloupe farm is the source of at least some of the salmonella responsible for an outbreak that sickened people in 21 states and killed two Kentucky residents, the Food and Drug Administration said yesterday.

Salmonella collected from Chamberlain Farms in Owensville, Ind., matches the “DNA fingerprint” of the salmonella strain responsible for sickening 178 people, including 62 who were hospitalized, FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said.

She stressed that federal and state agencies were still investigating whether there might be other sources of the salmonella involved in outbreak.

“Just because we’ve identified this as one source, things just don’t stop here. We’re still assessing the full scope of this,” she said.

Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever and stomach pain. Most people recover without treatment, but it can be deadly for some.

Amy Reel, a spokeswoman for the Indiana State Department of Health, said samples have been collected from multiple southern Indiana farms. The FDA is handling analysis of those samples, she said.

Gary Zhao, an attorney for the southwestern Indiana farm, said Tuesday in response to a message seeking comment that the farm would release a statement later this week.

Last week, Tim Chamberlain, who runs the 100-acre Chamberlain Farms, said it had stopped producing and distributing cantaloupe on Aug. 16, when the FDA alerted him that the fruit could be tainted.

Burgess said the FDA’s advice to consumers hasn’t changed: Consumers should ask stores where cantaloupe they purchased came from and get rid of the fruit if it was purchased from Chamberlain Farms.

“And if they can’t verify where it came from, they should throw it out,” Burgess said. “If in doubt, throw it out. That’s our advice.”

Reel said consumers should thoroughly wash all produce before consuming it. For cantaloupes and other melons with rough, pitted surfaces, people should use a vegetable brush to scrub away dirt and other material on the rind. The fruit should then be patted dry with a clean towel before it’s sliced or cut up.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, salmonella cases tied to tainted cantaloupe have been confirmed in the following states, with the number of cases for each state in parenthesis: Alabama (13), Arkansas (3), California (2), Georgia (3), Illinois (21), Indiana (18), Iowa (7), Kentucky (56), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (6), Minnesota (4), Mississippi (5), Missouri (12), New Jersey (2), North Carolina (3), Ohio (4), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (6), Texas (2), and Wisconsin (4).

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