TWO more people have been diagnosed with listeria traced to contaminated NSW rockmelon.
A Victorian man and a Queensland woman are the latest victims of the outbreak which has now affected 17 people across Australia.
Authorities issued an alert in late February and confirmed last week that three of those people who had been diagnosed had died.
The rockmelon producer in Nericon, near Griffith, voluntarily stopped production after being told of the contamination. Honeydew melon and watermelon from the farm have all tested negative for listeria.
The NSW Food Authority and Berejiklian government came under fire following accusations they took weeks to warn the public after beginning investigations in January.
- NSW Health defends rockmelon actions
- Listeriosis outbreak thought to be linked to NSW rockmelon
- 10 diagnosed with listeria during outbreak in NSW
But NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair hit back, telling ABC's Country Hour there had been no delay and everything was done "by the book".
NSW Health previously defended its response, saying it followed established protocols and takes outbreaks "very seriously".
The NSW Food Authority issued a warning on February 28 as soon as an investigation indicated the rockmelon was the likely source, it said.
The Australian Melon Association issued and update this morning saying the NSW Food Authority visited the implicated farm and conducted microbial tests of all areas of the packing operation, coolrooms, soil and water.
It is not yet known what has caused the outbreak.
AMA industry development manager, Dianne Fullelove, said the association has requested a report on the testing and the results, as the industry as a whole needs to learn from the incident.
“It is not known yet when that report will be completed. The grower will not be able to supply rockmelons until the investigation is complete and the NSW Food Authority allow supply from the farm to resume,” Ms Fullelove said.
She confirmed that other farms currently supplying rockmelons to the market have tested negative for food-borne microbial diseases including listeria.
To help other growers who are not implicated in this issue, the AMA has created an information webpage on the melon industry website that provides a source of evidence to help growers negotiating sales.
- An open letter to the AMA on NSW Government letterhead, from the NSW Food Authority stating that they are only concerned about one grower and that as of March 2, 2018, all rockmelons available for sale or export are not implicated in this outbreak.
- Negative microbial test results for currently supplying farms.
- Food safety posters for growers.
“We have been working to maintain information flow to wholesalers and retailers concerning the process of the investigation and the concerns of other supplying growers,” Ms Fullelove said.
“Although the implicated grower has not been named by the NSW Food Authority, we have done everything possible to ensure that other growers keep the confidence of the supply chain.
“Overall, there is sympathy for growers who are affected through no fault of their own. We will be aiming to capitalise on that message. We have also developed an information page for consumers on the industry website.”
With Australian Associated Press.