The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries’ biosecurity and food safety division has released a report summarising the findings from its investigation into the 2018 outbreak of listeriosis linked to rockmelon.

The full report is available on the NSW Food Authority website. The report says that adverse weather events, including heavy rainfall in December followed by dust storms, are likely to have significantly increased the organic load and amount of Listeria monocytogenes present on the rockmelons prior to harvest.

The report also notes that the netted skin of rockmelons makes this fruit particularly hard to clean and sanitise, and that the hygiene and sanitation practices of the farm at the source of the outbreak “were on par with, or better than most other rockmelon growing operations across Australia”, as well as finding that “overall hygiene and dust control [in the packing shed] were very good”.

While the recommendations from the report are aimed at rockmelon growers and the rockmelon industry, the release of the findings from this investigation are a valuable reminder for all growers to continue their strong focus on food safety.

Australian producers have a reputation in domestic and overseas markets for the quality and safety of their produce, and it’s vital that we take every opportunity to analyse and further refine our food safety systems.

If you haven’t already, take a look at the full summary report for all the details from the investigation.