The US and Canada point to the Mexican melon after the death of eight people from salmonellosis



The United States and Canada have put their sights on Mexican melons after an outbreak of salmonellosis that has left eight dead and more than 359 affected. Last Thursday, the health agencies of the receiving countries attributed the infection to the Malichita company, based in Guaymas, Sonora. The Ministry of Agriculture of Mexico, the second largest melon exporter in the world, is investigating whether the bacteria comes from the company’s ejidos or if the fruit could have been infected in the export process.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) indicated last Thursday that so far there are 129 confirmed cases of salmonellosis due to consumption of melons. “The majority of people who have fallen ill are children under five years old or adults over 65 years old,” argued the federal agency. Five people have died from this outbreak and 44 have required hospitalization.

Canada has singled out the agricultural company Malichita, which has its offices and ejidos near the city of Guaymas, in the south of the State of Sonora. On its website, the company boasts of having all the health certifications from Mexican and American organizations. The product under focus is the variety of cantaloupe melon, which the corporation sells under two different labels in large supermarkets in Canada and the United States: Malichita and Rudy.

The PHAC asks the population to avoid melons with these brands that can still circulate in food stores. “If you cannot check the brand of the melon, it is recommended to throw it away,” the agency said. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating an outbreak of salmonellosis, also due to consumption of melons. The bacteria has caused 230 cases among Americans, resulting in 96 hospitalizations and three deaths.

In Mexico, the Ministry of Agriculture came out last Saturday with a statement explaining that Malichita has controls to know the route of its melons and that they have taken samples in the ejidos to find out if they were infected at source. “The company has the necessary controls for the traceability of its operations, which allows the trace of the melon to be followed, from the production unit to its entry into United States territory, the point from which the product entered Canada,” the message explains.

The salmonellosis outbreak could affect the Mexican melon business, especially the lowest link in the chain, the farmers, as already happened with the cucumber crisis in Spain. After this country, Mexico is the second largest melon exporter in the world, a business that left a profit of 331 million dollars (about 5,766 million pesos) in 2021, according to the latest report from the Economic Complexity Observatory. Almost all sales are made to Canada and the United States, which receive 99 of every 100 melons that leave Mexico.

The PHAC already sounded the alarm in early November regarding Malichita brand melons sold in Canada between October 11 and November 14. At the end of the same month, the agency also pointed out those of the Rudy brand marketed between October 10 and November 23. The most affected province has been Quebec, with 91 cases. The products were also sold in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

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