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Want to eat melons without getting sick? Wash ’em

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Two deaths in Kentucky linked to salmonella on Indiana melons

By Ben Carlson

Anderson County’s acting health director has a simple solution for those worried about contracting salmonella from eating tainted muskmelons or cantaloupes.
A bleach solution, that is.
With news spreading about two deaths in Kentucky and dozens of people sickened from melons likely grown in southwestern Indiana, Tim Wright said Tuesday morning that concerned Anderson County residents should wash melons in a simple bleach solution before cutting them.
“Most people don’t realize that when they buy a melon, it’s straight out of the field,” Wright said, adding that the melons, including watermelons, are typically contaminated when rodents urinate on them.
“People use a clean knife and cut through the melon and that can shove the salmonella into its meat,” Wright said.
“The best thing to do is to submerge the melon into a light bleach solution before cutting it, which kills the bacteria on the hull.
“Then, when you cut through it with a knife, there’s not chance of getting salmonella.”
Wright said the bleach formula is one cap of bleach per gallon of water and should be followed closely.
Wright said he recommends sanitizing all produce before eating it, and encourages people to thoroughly wash their hands before handling.
He said it’s also important to refrigerate melons after they are sliced.
Salmonella infections are relatively common, generally resulting in diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12–72 hours after infection, according to a news release issued by the state’s Cabinet for Health and Human Services.
Infection is most often diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. The illness usually lasts four to seven days. Although most people recover without treatment, severe infections may occur, especially in young infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
Salmonella is a bacterium that can be found in the intestines of animals. Salmonellosis is often contracted from eating raw eggs or raw poultry or having those products touch other items that are then eaten (such as using the same cutting board for raw chicken and produce). Salmonella can also be found on the skin of reptiles and other animals.
For more information, call 839-4511.


Cleaning your melons
Interim Health Director Tim Wright has offered the following advice to avoid contracting salmonella from melons.
Ask where the melon is from. If it’s from southwestern Indiana, don’t buy it.
Wash melons with mild detergent and sanitize with a bleach solution of one cap of bleach per gallon of water.
Use a produce brush to scrub melon when washing.
Don’t buy melons with cracks, bruises, nicks, cuts and stem scars.
When shopping or handling melons, wash hands thoroughly.
Don’t store unwashed produce with ready-to-eat foods.