Australian rock melons from listeria-linked source recalled in Singapore: AVA

Customers browsing the fruits section of the FairPrice Xtra hypermarket in NEX shopping mall.
Customers browsing the fruits section of the FairPrice Xtra hypermarket in NEX shopping mall.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Two consignments of rock melons from a farm in Australia linked to a deadly listeria outbreak were imported and available for sale in Singapore from Feb 12 to March 2.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a statement on Monday (March 5) that they were being sold at Sheng Siong supermarket outlets and wet markets.

A recall by Australian health authorities has been completed, after the AVA worked with importers to remove the remaining unsold melons.

There has been no further import of rock melons from the affected grower, and import has been suspended, the AVA said, adding that all rock melons currently available for sale are not implicated in the recall.

In Australia, three elderly people have died and at least 12 others have fallen ill after eating rock melons tainted with the listeria bacteria. The contaminated melons came from a farm in the eastern state of New South Wales, which has since stopped production.

The AVA is following up with Australian authorities for updates, and has taken samples of locally sold rock melons from other sources for food safety tests, it said.

Supermarkets, including Sheng Siong, had earlier told The Straits Times that they do not carry rock melons from New South Wales, with some taking extra precautionary measures.

Sheng Siong supermarket removed all Australian rock melons from its shelves last Friday "as a matter of safety and precaution", and has since replaced them with a new batch sourced from Western Australia, a spokesman said.

In response to queries, FairPrice said its rock melons, also known as cantaloupe, are sourced from Western Australia, Indonesia and Central and South America.

A spokesman for Dairy Farm Singapore said both Cold Storage and Giant do not import rock melons from New South Wales.

"Giant currently gets their supplies from Indonesia while Cold Storage is working with a supplier from Western Australia. As a precautionary measure, the shipments from Australia will come with a certificate of analysis on micro testing for listeria to ensure they have been safely processed and are free from contamination," the spokesman said.

Consumers who suspect that they have purchased the implicated rockmelons within the affected time period are advised not to consume them, and to seek medical attention if they feel unwell, the AVA said.

 
 

Listeria bacteria are found in the environment including soil, water and faeces, and can contaminate food items such as raw meat and seafood, ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce. Fruits should be thoroughly washed before consumption, the AVA said.

While the consumption of food containing the listeria bacteria does not cause illness in most people, it can lead to sickness and death in those with weaker immunity, such as the elderly and newborns, as well as pregnant women.

Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches and diarrhoea. In severe cases, it can lead to brain and heart infections or complications in the foetus or newborn of infected mothers.

The incubation period of Listeria ranges from three to 70 days and it is treatable with antibiotics if diagnosed early.

Consumers should seek medical attention as early as possible if symptoms appear within 70 days after consuming Australian rock melon, the AVA said.