The latest in a series of deadly, high-profile cases of foodborne illness linked to fresh produce again pushed food safety and traceability to the top of the industry’s agenda.

Restoring consumer confidence in cantaloupes after the Rocky Ford outbreak in 2011 was the focus of a January closed meeting hosted by the Center for Produce Safety.

The recall of Chamberlain Farms cantaloupe linked to a salmonella outbreak hit other growers hard when customers took a guilt-by-association approach to buying because the specific grower wasn’t named for six days.

Aug. 27
Outbreak linked to Chamberlain Farms cantaloupe
By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

Six days after cantaloupes from southwest Indiana were linked to a multiple-state salmonella outbreak, federal officials revealed Chamberlain Farms as the grower in a recall notice, but details about how many melons were shipped or what retailers received them were not released.

Tim and Mia Chamberlain, owners of Chamberlain Farms Produce Inc., Owensville, Ind., voluntarily began withdrawing cantaloupe from the supply chain Aug. 16, Tim Chamberlain said.

The next day, health officials in Kentucky reported melons from a southwestern Indiana grower had tested positive for the same strain of salmonella that killed two Kentucky residents.

As of Aug. 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had linked the outbreak to 178 people in 21 states and two deaths, all with the same strain of salmonella.

Sept. 3
Chamberlain Farms cantaloupe tests positive for salmonella
By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

Tests on cantaloupes at Chamberlain Farms, Owensville, Ind., showed positive results for the same strain of salmonella that has killed two and sickened 178 people in 21 states, according to federal officials.

The Food and Drug Administration released the cantaloupe results Aug. 28. Inspectors collected the cantaloupes and environmental swab samples from surfaces at the growing and packing operation from Aug. 14-16.

Chamberlain ceased harvesting and began pulling back his fruit from distributors and retailers Aug. 16 after public health officials informed him whole cantaloupes collected at a retail store had tested positive for the specific strain of salmonella that had killed two people in Kentucky.

The FDA said some media reported the agency warned against all Indiana cantaloupes, but Chamberlain Farm cantaloupes are the only ones FDA has identified with the specific strain of salmonella involved in the 21-state outbreak.

The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are continuing to investigate the outbreak. Both agencies have stated that there could be additional sources for the salmonella, but none had been announced as of Aug. 30.

1. Chamberlain cantaloupe outbreakSept. 17
Officials detect salmonella on watermelons
By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

FDA reports Salmonella Newport 0807 has been found on cantaloupe from Chamberlain Farms, and that 30 people in seven states have been sickened by it.

The watermelons at Chamberlain Farms tested positive for Salmonella Newport 0149, and although there are illnesses reported, none had been linked to the watermelons as of Sept. 13.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated information Sept. 13 about Chamberlain cantaloupes linked a separate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium. The CDC said that outbreak includes 240 illnesses in 25 states, including three deaths.

Sept. 24
Second salmonella strain found
By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

Chamberlain Farms cantaloupes have been linked to a second salmonella strain — Salmonella Newport this time — found by federal officials, who report 30 people in seven states are sick from it.

State and federal officials previously linked cantaloupes from the farm to a Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak responsible for 240 illnesses in 25 states, including three deaths in Kentucky, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The farm recalled all of its cantaloupes in August.

The news of the second strain in cantaloupes — Salmonella Newport 0807 — came six days after Chamberlain recalled all of its watermelons because Indiana public health officials found Salmonella Newport 0149 on fruit still in the field. In its most recent update on the watermelon investigation, the CDC reported a cluster of 25 people across eight states who were sick from Salmonella Newport 0149 that “is indistinguishable” from the pathogen found on the Chamberlain watermelon.

Oct. 8
Cantaloupe grower denies any link to outbreak
By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

Inspectors found “poor sanitary conditions” at his packing shed — and three types of salmonella on cantaloupes and equipment — but the owner of Chamberlain Farm Produce Inc. contends there isn’t any link between his fruit and an outbreak that has killed three.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, reports 270 people in 26 states have been sickened by two strains of salmonella that are “indistinguishable” from the salmonella at the farm. The illnesses began July 6.

Also, the Kentucky Department of Health confirmed the match of one strain in August on Chamberlain Farm Produce cantaloupe collected at retail. The CDC later matched two strains on Chamberlain Farm cantaloupes and watermelons at the Owensville, Ind., farm to the outbreak strains.

The Food and Drug Administration released a report Oct. 3 on findings Aug. 14-31 at the farm. It details a variety of “poor sanitary conditions.”

Oct. 15
CDC calls Chamberlain cantaloupe outbreak over; state issues ‘alarming findings’
By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

The salmonella outbreak linked to cantaloupe from Chamberlain Farms Produce Inc. that killed three in Kentucky and sickened people in more than 20 states “appears to be over,” federal officials say.

In its final update on the outbreak that lasted from July 6 to Sept. 16, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced the number of victims from 270 to 261. Ninety-four were hospitalized. The Oct. 5 update reduced the number of states involved from 26 to 24.

However, as of Oct. 10, FDA’s investigation into the growing and packing operation owned by Tim Chamberlain continued, with officials considering whether to take any disciplinary action in the case, FDA spokeswoman Pat El-Hinnawy said.

She said FDA’s last inspection of the farm was Sept. 21, but a report hasn’t been completed. FDA has not taken regulatory action against Chamberlain or the farm in Owensville, Ind.

Indiana officials completed their own investigation at the farm, with a 42-page report mentioning “several alarming findings.” Many of the Indiana Health Department findings mirrored those included in a preliminary FDA report.