Melons are fruit that belong to the gourd family and grow close to the ground. A common characteristic that all melons share is a hard skin or rind that surrounds a fleshy center. Some popular types of melons are honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon.
By making sure they are properly handled, washed, prepared, and stored, you can enjoy the health benefits of melons and help prevent food poisoning for yourself and your family.
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Melons and food poisoning
While melons do not naturally contain bacteria that can make you sick, their outer skin or rind can become contaminated because melons are grown close to the ground.
Eating melons that have been contaminated with harmful bacteria can make you sick. Contaminated melons have been linked to cases of food poisoning caused by Salmonella bacteria.
Melons can become contaminated in the field by:
- contaminated water
- improperly composted manure
They can also be contaminated by bacteria:
- during and after harvest from handling, storing, and transporting
- at the grocery store, in the refrigerator, or from counters and cutting boards (through cross-contamination with harmful bacteria from raw meat, poultry, or seafood)
Cantaloupe is at greater risk of contamination because of its unique netted rind. The spaces between the netting can trap bacteria and make them harder to remove.
- Choose melons that are firm and avoid ones that are bruised or damaged. Melons can become contaminated through bruises and damaged parts of the hard outer rind/skin.
- Some melons may have blemishes on one side. This is usually where the melon was resting on the ground during growth. These blemishes do not make a melon unsafe to eat.
- If buying pre-cut melons, make sure they are refrigerated.
- Whole/uncut melons can be refrigerated for up to 15 days, depending on the ripeness, variety, and growing conditions.
- Cut melons should be refrigerated immediately and stored in the refrigerator for up to four days. Throw out any cut melons that have been left at room temperature for more than two hours.
Washing your hands and following proper cleaning techniques can help you avoid cross-contamination and prevent the spread of food poisoning.
- Use warm water and soap to thoroughly wash all utensils, countertops, and cutting boards before and after handling melons.
Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, before and after handling melons.
- Before cutting the melon, thoroughly wash and scrub the entire melon with warm water using a clean produce brush. Bacteria from the outer rind can transfer to the inner flesh of the melon if you cut into it before washing.
- There is no need to use anything other than water when washing melons. Washing melons gently under fresh, cool running water is as effective as using produce cleansers.
- Throw away melons that are bruised or rotten.
What the Government of Canada does to protect you
The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.
Together with industry, we work to identify best practices that can be used to help prevent contamination of fresh produce throughout the food system, from the field to the store. In addition, inspection and enforcement activities conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency work to ensure that steps taken by producers, manufacturers, and importers have been effective and that the foods available to Canadians are safe.
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