With another life claimed, NSW Food Authority says rockmelons currently for sale are safe

An 80 year old man from Victoria is the fifth person to die from listeria, making a total of three people from Victoria and two from NSW who have died from the outbreak in rockmelons.

However NSW Food authority assures the community that all rockmelons currently on sale are safe to eat.

With Rombola’s in Nericon identified as the source of the outbreak, The NSW Food Authority is still investigating the cause, with fertiliser or water supply ranking as possible causes.

With the significant financial impact worrying Riverina and MIA growers, packers and suppliers, the Department of Food and Agriculture said they can’t provide any information about the financial implications for the region.

“The department cannot comment on the estimated cost of the outbreak for industry, or provide confirmation that any major chains have suspended purchases from the Riverina,” a spokesman said.

A NSW Food Authority spokeswoman was able to confirm there was not an official ban on the Riverina region, however certain suppliers were at liberty to choose not to buy from the region or sell rockmelons at all.

“Some retailers have chosen not to stock rockmelons at this point, so consumers may notice they are not readily available on shelves,” she said.

“This is a commercial decision retailers are at liberty to make.”

Coles has stripped all rockmelons from the shelves in all states except WA, while Woolworths has pulled all rockmelons sourced in NSW, but say they remain committed to the region once given the all-clear.

The Food Authority spokeswoman said rockmelons are safe to eat now-  if you can find them in the supermarkets.

“Rockmelons currently available for sale or export are not implicated in this outbreak,” she said.

That is, of course, unless you are in the vulnerable grouping of elderly, pregnant women and people who have underlying health conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart and kidney disease.

​“These groups of people have always been encouraged to abstain from eating rockmelon – it is a 365 day warning, and not something just specific to the outbreak.”

Listeria infection (also called listeriosis) is a rare but potentially severe illness caused by eating foods that contain the listeria bacteria. 

People at risk should consult their local doctor as early as possible should symptoms appear, which include fever; headache; tiredness; muscle aches; and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms.

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