The New South Wales Food Authority has named the farm at the centre of the deadly rockmelon-linked listeria outbreak that killed four people and infected 17 others around Australia.
The authority confirmed that the outbreak began at Rombola Family Farms in Nericon in south-western NSW. The authority confirmed that it was working closely with Rombola Family Farms to support the business and other growers as part of the wider rockmelon industry as it works to recover from the devastating impact of the outbreak.
The authority had previously declined to name the grower, but calls from within the struggling industry urged the specific farm to be named and for the cause of the outbreak to be identified to others weren’t unnecessarily shunned by shoppers. While the exact cause hasn’t yet been determined, the food safety body is working closely with the farm to get to the bottom of the case.
“The NSW Food Authority implements regulatory programs across a range of primary production sectors, in light of this incident, pending the outcome of its investigation there may be additional regulatory actions or oversight applied to the rockmelon industry to drive compliance and see improved food safety outcomes,” the authority said in a statement.
It said that it was also working with the Australian Melon Association to support its members, following a decline in sales since news of the outbreak was made public earlier this month.
“Throughout the incident the Food Authority worked with the Australian Melon Association to support its members, providing a written letter to the association, that they have made available to their members to share with buyers, advising of its confidence all affected product has been removed from the supply chain, and that rockmelons currently available for sale or export are not implicated in this outbreak,” the statement read.
Because of the outbreak, many retailers have chosen not to stock rockmelon, with the authority adding that that was a decision retailers are at liberty to make. At present, Victoria and New South Wales each have six cases of listeria. Two people died in New South Wales and two lives have also been lost in Victoria, with four cases confirmed in Queensland and one in Tasmania.
Listeria is a potentially life-threatening illness for certain people, older or ill Australians. Those who are over the age of 70, have diabetes, cancer or suppressed immune systems are most at risk. Most of the people who have been infected across Australia have been aged between 60 and 90. People with listeria tend to show flu-like symptoms including a fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhoea, but the illness can be difficult to diagnose as some people show symptoms immediately, while it can take up to six weeks for others to show them.
Authorities have assured shoppers that fruit currently on the market is safe to eat and that most people who have become infected ate rockmelon between January 17 and February 9.