Product pulled, lawsuit filed in wake of outbreak alert

Several retailers have stopped selling fresh-cut watermelon and fresh-cut cantaloupe in response to an outbreak warning issued by the Washington State Department of Health.

The department advised that people throw away fresh-cut watermelon and fresh-cut cantaloupe purchased from Oct. 25 to Dec. 1 in Washington or Oregon from Rosauers, Central Market or Kroger banners QFC and Fred Meyer.

At least 19 people have become ill — 17 from Washington and two from Oregon — and lab results identified Salmonella Newport as the cause, according to a news release.

Kroger has stopped selling packaged cut watermelon and cantaloupe at QFC and Fred Meyer in response to the health department advisory, according to posts on the section of its website titled “Recall Alerts.” Kroger stated the products were removed from sale out of an abundance of caution, withdrawn Dec. 5.

Town & Country Markets wrote on its website that the Central Market locations it operates have been removed from the list of retailers who may have sold the suspected produce.

“As our food safety director Mike Latham understands it, Central Market Mill Creek came up during an interview with one of the individuals who became ill, and who thought she might have bought cut watermelon there,” the company stated. “Central Market was therefore mentioned in the state’s press release in an abundance of caution while they were scrambling to get the press release out Friday evening. The investigation is still underway, but it appears Central Market is not connected to this outbreak. Our vendor contacted the state health department to let them know that we didn’t carry cut watermelon during that period of time.”

The company did elect to pull all fresh-cut cantaloupe from its shelves out of an abundance of caution, according to the statement.

The Food and Drug Administration is leading the investigation into the source of the produce, and the Washington State Department of Health is leading the…

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