The rockmelon farm at the centre of the deadly listeria outbreak has been revealed as Rombola Family Farms, authorities have confirmed. The NSW Food Authority said it was working closely with the farm, located in the NSW Riverina, to determine the exact cause of the outbreak.
Four people died and there have been 17 confirmed cases of listeriosis nationally, linked to the contaminated rockmelons.
The rockmelon industry had been calling for the farm behind the outbreak to be named, to protect the reputation of other growers and convince consumers that it was safe to eat the fruit.
A spokeswoman for the NSW Food Authority said, pending the results of its investigation into the incident, it may implement additional regulation to the rockmelon industry to ensure compliance with food safety.
The NSW Food Authority is working closely with Rombola Family Farms to identify the source of the outbreak. (Supplied: YouTube)
Rombola Family Farms is located in Nericon, near Griffith, in south-western NSW.
The company’s website says it is one of the biggest melon growers in the country.
Food safety experts say it may take years for consumers to regain confidence in the rockmelon industry after the listeria outbreak.
Food Produce Centre head of food safety Richard Bennett said it took months for demand for rockmelons to increase after an outbreak of salmonella two years ago.
“It had a very rapid effect on the marketplace, including demolishing demand in markets where that product wasn’t even supplied,” he said.
With four deaths and 17 people sick from this outbreak, he believes it will take a lot longer this time.
Consumers at a farmers market in Bunbury, Western Australia this week were clearly worried about the threat of listeria, despite that state being unaffected by the outbreak.
One said the outbreak had put them off buying rockmelons at the moment, while another said they had not bought rockmelons since the outbreak, despite loving the fruit.
Demand for rockmelons has plummeted by 90 per cent across the country.
‘National disaster’ will cost industry millions
A Western Australian farmer has described the listeria outbreak in rockmelons as a national disaster that will cost the industry tens of millions of dollars and take years to recover from.
Bruno Capogreco is laying off staff.
“We’re at a standstill right now. All the workers are sitting in their rooms and I don’t know if I’ll have to employ them again,” he said.
The source of the infection is a farm in the Riverina in NSW, but growers like Mr Capogreco are angry about the impact on their businesses.
“It’s all because one grower has not done the right procedures and everyone is suffering.”
Mr Capogreco has just returned from Japan where he says the story is the same. “Australian rockmelons, killer disease, listeria killed four — that’s what the story is in Japan,” he said.
What is listeria?
Listeria is a serious and sometimes fatal bacterial infection.
Symptoms can include fever, headaches, cramps, aches and pains, nausea and diarrhoea
It can be fatal in newborns, elderly people and people with a weakened immune system
“It’s a disaster. It’s gonna take months or years for people to forget about it.”
The Australian Melon Association has called for the NSW Food Authority to identify the grower responsible for the outbreak to protect the reputation of other growers.
The authority has not responded to that call, but it did warn growers there may be additional regulation and oversight to drive compliance and improved food safety as a result of the crisis. The exact cause of the outbreak still has not been determined.
The NSW Food Safety Authority says rockmelons currently on the shelf are safe to eat. One Riverina grower has donated his fruit to the Food Bank in Sydney. – freshplaza.com