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Grower linked to rockmelon listeria named


The NSW rockmelon grower linked to the fatal listeria outbreak in Australia has been revealed as Rombola Family Farms in the Riverina region.

The NSW Food Authority on Tuesday said it was working with the Nericon business to determine the exact cause of the outbreak which infected 17 elderly people across the country and killed two Victorians and two people from NSW.

“The Food Authority is now working with Rombola Family Farms in an effort to support the business and the wider rockmelon industry as it works to recover from the impact of the outbreak,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Rombola family have been farming for more than 50 years and consider themselves one of the biggest melon growers in Australia, the Rombola Family Farms website says.

After being made aware of the contamination, the farm, which also grows broccoli, watermelons, wine grapes, pumpkins, citrus and almonds, voluntarily ceased production on February 23.

As a result of the outbreak, the NSW Food Authority may apply additional regulatory actions or supervision to the rockmelon industry to ensure compliance and to see improved safety outcomes, it said in a statement.

The authority is confident all affected produce has been removed from the supply chain and the rockmelons currently for sale and export are not contaminated.

Rombola Family Farms has been sought for comment.

Australian Melon Association industry development manager Dianne Fullelove said melon businesses across Australia had been seriously affected with sales dropping by more than 90 per cent.

“We’d like people to buy them (rockmelons) … everyone who is a healthy adult and is not pregnant or immunocompromised can eat them,” Fullelove said.

As a result of the outbreak, the industry is reminding consumers of the safe ways to eat fruit.

Cut fruit should be refrigerated and should not be left outside for more than two hours.

Whole fruit should be washed on the outside, cut on a clean cutting board and the skin should be cut from the outside from the top to the bottom rather than through the middle.

Health experts say listeria is everywhere in the environment and can be found in dirty water, irrigation water, soil and fertiliser.


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