Australian farm sells melons after fatal listeria outbreak

By ROD McGUIRKMarketsAssociated Press

An Australian farm has recommenced selling cantaloupes despite the melons being blamed for an outbreak of the deadly listeria bacteria that the World Health Organization said had killed seven people and caused a miscarriage in Australia.

The United Nations agency said Monday that the Australian cantaloupes, known as rockmelons, were exported to Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and may also have been sent to the Seychelles.

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Between Jan. 17 and April 6, Australia reported 19 confirmed and one probable case of listeria poisoning, seven of them fatal, the agency said.

Australian authorities tracked the contamination to Rombola Family Farms at Nericon in New South Wales state.

The company voluntarily halted production of the melons after becoming aware of the outbreak six weeks ago.

The New South Wales Food Authority said last week that Rombola had recommenced supplying rockmelons after testing cleared the property of contamination.

The authority believes the cause of the outbreak was a combination of environmental conditions and weather contaminating the surface of the fruit, with low levels of the bacteria persisting after the washing process.

"Rombola adheres to the strictest food safety standards, operating a clean, hygienic and highly-regulated facility," the company said in a statement on Tuesday. "The company will undertake regular mandatory testing of produce."