ISSN: 2455-815X
International Journal of Agricultural Science and Food Technology
Mini Review       Open Access      Peer-Reviewed

Cantaloupe -A Food safety concern: Mini-Review

Hansel A Mina* and Amanda J Deering

Department of Food Science, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States
*Corresponding author: Hansel A Mina, Department of Food Science, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States, E-mail:
Received: 30 July, 2022 | Accepted: 24 August, 2022 | Published: 25 August, 2022

Cite this as

Mina HA, Deering AJ (2022) Cantaloupe -A Food safety concern: Mini-Review. Int J Agric Sc Food Technol 8(3): 244-247. DOI: 10.17352/2455-815X.000172

Copyright License

© 2022 Mina HA, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Historically, the United States has positioned itself as one of the leading producers and consumers of melons in the world with a 2020 production value of over $295 million (excluding watermelons). It has been estimated that on average the per capita consumption of melons in the U.S. is about 24 pounds each year [1]. Increased consumer awareness of healthy diets, sensory attributes of melons, enhanced year-round availability, marketing techniques and improved cultivars contribute to explaining the higher demand for melon consumption [2]. As consumption of cantaloupes increases, the likelihood of associated illnesses and outbreaks caused by microorganisms increases too. As an example, in the past two decades, melon consumption has been linked to several multistate foodborne outbreaks. Cantaloupes, as well as other fresh produce, can potentially become contaminated with foodborne pathogens and cause disease because it is consumed in their raw state without any processing step that can inactivate or remove hazardous microorganisms [3].

Outbreaks associated with cantaloupe consumption

Between July and October 2011, the CDC received 147 reports of listeriosis infections, which led to 33 known fatalities. Among the ill patients, 134 reported the consumption of cantaloupe within the same month [4,5]. Likewise, between 2011 and 2021, there were ten S. enterica outbreaks connected to melons (Table 1), accounting for 39.1% of all S. enterica outbreaks connected to fruits. Nine of these outbreaks linked to melon used cantaloupe and the other involved a different type of melon [6].

Pre-harvest conditions promoting bacterial attachment to cantaloupe

The main pre-harvest contamination events are the transmission and attachment of human pathogens from environmental sources to the surface of the cantaloupe. In the field cantaloupes usually grow on the ground, therefore, pre-harvest contamination is frequently caused by soil, improperly composted manure, irrigation water, dust, insects, wild animals, and improper human handling [8,12]. Furthermore, temperature, relative humidity and contact time are environmental variables that affect bacterial attachment and biofilm formation [13,14]. Biofilm formation begins once bacterial cells are attached to fruit surfaces, which is a common method adopted by bacteria to protect themselves from environmental stress [15-18]. A significant element impacting the effectiveness of post-harvest treatments is bacterial attachment. For example, Ukuku and Fett [19], found that the efficacy of chemical treatments on detachment or inactivation of pathogenic bacteria from cantaloupe surfaces depends on the location of the organisms on the rinds, application time, and treatment. Additionally, the netting that naturally covers the cantaloupe rinds promotes attachment and harbors microorganisms from the soil or irrigation water [20]. Different studies have suggested that contamination and possible internalization of foodborne bacterial pathogens within preharvest fresh produce; cantaloupes are part of this group [14,21-23].

Post-harvest contamination of cantaloupes

Cantaloupes can become contaminated during harvesting, washing, packing, and storage. If cantaloupes are pre-cut, once the protective epidermal barrier of the rind has been damaged or intentionally cut, the likelihood of foodborne pathogen growth and/or survival may be enhanced [14,24]. Once cantaloupes have been peeled or cut, more nutrients and water will be available for contamination and proliferation of undesirable microorganisms. For example, several studies have shown greater proliferation of human pathogenic bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Staphylococcus in pre-cut as compared with intact commodities[14,25-27]. Similar results were obtained after applying commercially available sanitizers to different melon rinds. It was found that pathogenic bacteria were recovered on pre-cut cantaloupe and melon juice [28,29].

Rind structure and bacterial attachment to cantaloupe rind

In general, intact fresh produce have a protective outer barrier that reduces the likelihood of contamination with human pathogenic bacteria, as compared with cut produce surfaces. Most undamaged product surfaces’ protective outer barrier may limit gas, moisture, and nutrient absorption and exchange [14,30,31]. The rind of melon is typically covered by a thick cuticle, a waxy specialized barrier that covers the outer surface of the fruit. This structure protects the fruit rind epidermis from water loss and creates a natural resistance to external compounds and microorganisms that can affect the quality and safety of the produce [32]. In the case of melons, another structure is formed on the surface of the fruit rind throughout development. In the early stage of melon development, fissures appear vertically in the equatorial region. During ripening, fissures continue developing horizontally and interconnect with the vertical fissures. Periderm tissues with waxy suberized cell wall layers mend these cracks or spontaneous wounds (“net”) [33]. Human pathogenic bacteria can attach to the cantaloupe melon’s surface using the meshwork of lenticular netting, which works as protection during washing procedures and sanitizer application. As a result of maturation, the fissures start to open and expand, and waxy cutin depositions occur to protect the nonfunctional cells, leaving the lenticels exposed. Foodborne bacterial pathogens attached to the then disrupted tissue promote greater infiltration to the cantaloupe mesocarp [34,35].

The attachment and biofilm formation of human pathogenic bacteria to cantaloupe rinds is highly influenced by charge and hydrophobicity. For example, in a comparative study among Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli, Ukuku and Fett [36] determined the influence of the hydrophobic nature of bacteria and the interaction with the hydrophobic nature of intact cantaloupe rinds to promote attachment and biofilm formation. They also found that Salmonella bound the strongest to the surface of the melon, as compared with the other bacteria genera. Melon rinds in their intact form are hydrophobic in nature, likewise, Salmonella is highly hydrophobic on their surface. Furthermore, Salmonella production of extracellular carbohydrate polymer cellulose and other appendages, such as cellulose, flagella, and curli have been found as the main components for biofilm formation [37]. Finally, studies have demonstrated that foodborne pathogens are transferred to the mesocarp during the pealing and cutting of cantaloupes that have been previously washed with commercially available postharvest sanitizers [28,38-40].


This mini-review contains a summary of the multistate foodborne outbreaks of bacterial infection in the U.S. associated with melon consumption, from 2011 to 2021. These data highlight the importance of research on potential routes of contamination of melons in the field, during harvesting, and postharvest conditions. Furthermore, this review presents numerous studies that investigated foodborne pathogens’ growth and/or survival on intact cantaloupe surfaces under the different stages of production. Additionally, the review emphasized the interaction between bacteria and rind surface, and how the rind netting works as a protective barrier against commercially available sanitizers, reducing their efficacy to remove pathogenic bacteria, becoming a food safety concern. The food industry will be helped in determining the danger of human pathogenic bacteria contamination by identifying these elements that affect the growth and/or improved survival of foodborne pathogens on intact cantaloupe surfaces by adopting best agricultural practices or implementing specific handling, transporting, and storing conditions for this specific commodity.

  1. Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. “Melons” 2021.
  2. Lester G. Consumer preference quality attributes of melon fruits. In IV International Conference on Managing Quality in Chains-The Integrated View on Fruits and Vegetables Quality. 2006; 712: 175–182.
  3. Vadlamudi S, Taylor TM, Blankenburg C, Castillo A. Effect of chemical sanitizers on Salmonella enterica serovar Poona on the surface of cantaloupe and pathogen contamination of internal tissues as a function of cutting procedure. J Food Prot. 2012 Oct;75(10):1766-73. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-12-159. PMID: 23043824.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Multistate outbreak of listeriosis associated with jensen farms cantaloupe--united states, august-september 2011. [Accessed: 28-Jul-2022].
  5. McCollum JT, Cronquist AB, Silk BJ, Jackson KA, O'Connor KA, Cosgrove S, Gossack JP, Parachini SS, Jain NS, Ettestad P, Ibraheem M, Cantu V, Joshi M, DuVernoy T, Fogg NW Jr, Gorny JR, Mogen KM, Spires C, Teitell P, Joseph LA, Tarr CL, Imanishi M, Neil KP, Tauxe RV, Mahon BE. Multistate outbreak of listeriosis associated with cantaloupe. N Engl J Med. 2013 Sep 5;369(10):944-53. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1215837. PMID: 24004121.
  6. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Reports of Selected Salmonella Outbreak Investigations. 2022.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Panama Infections Linked to Cantaloupe. 2011. [Accessed: 23-Aug-2022].
  8. Carstens CK, Salazar JK, Darkoh C. Multistate Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness in the United States Associated With Fresh Produce From 2010 to 2017. Front Microbiol. 2019 Nov 22;10:2667. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.02667. PMID: 31824454; PMCID: PMC6883221.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Newport Infections Linked to Cantaloupe. 2012. [Accessed: 23-Aug-2022].
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Adelaide Infections Linked to Pre-Cut Melon 2018. [Accessed: 23-Aug-2023].
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Outbreak of Salmonella Infections Linked to Pre-Cut Melons. 2019. [Accessed: 23-Aug-2022].
  12. Uyttendaele M. Microbial hazards in irrigation water: standards, norms, and testing to manage use of water in fresh produce primary production. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2015; 14: 336-356.
  13. Castillo A, Martínez-Téllez MO, Rodríguez-García MA. The Produce Contamination Problem: Causes and solutions. In The Produce Contamination Problem: Causes and solutions, G. M. Sapers, E. B. Solomon, and K. R. Matthews, Eds. San Diego: Academic Press 2009: xix–xxi.
  14. Marik CM, Zuchel J, Schaffner DW, Strawn LK. Growth and Survival of Listeria monocytogenes on Intact Fruit and Vegetable Surfaces during Postharvest Handling: A Systematic Literature Review. J Food Prot. 2020 Jan;83(1):108-128. doi: 10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-19-283. PMID: 31855613.
  15. Chhetri VS, Fontenot K, Strahan R, Yemmireddy VK, Cason C, Kharel K, Adhikari A. Attachment strength and on-farm die-off rate of Escherichia coli on watermelon surfaces. PLoS One. 2019 Jan 8;14(1):e0210115. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210115. PMID: 30620744; PMCID: PMC6324798.
  16. Garrett TR, Bhakoo M, Zhang Z. Bacterial adhesion and biofilms on surfaces. Prog Nat Sci. 2008; 18:1049–1056.
  17. Gupta P, Sarkar S, Das B, Bhattacharjee S, Tribedi P. Biofilm, pathogenesis and prevention--a journey to break the wall: a review. Arch Microbiol. 2016 Jan;198(1):1-15. doi: 10.1007/s00203-015-1148-6. Epub 2015 Sep 16. PMID: 26377585.
  18. Romeo T. Bacterial biofilms. Berlin: Springer, 2008.
  19. Ukuku DO, Geveke DJ, Chau L, Bigley A, Niemira BA. Appearance and overall acceptability of fresh-cut cantaloupe pieces from whole melon treated with wet steam process. LWT-Food Sci Technol. 2017; 82: 235-242.
  20. Gagliardi JV, Millner PD, Lester G, Ingram D. On-farm and postharvest processing sources of bacterial contamination to melon rinds. J Food Prot. 2003 Jan;66(1):82-7. doi: 10.4315/0362-028x-66.1.82. PMID: 12540185.
  21. Riordan DC, Sapers GM, Hankinson TR, Magee M, Mattrazzo AM, Annous BA. A study of U.S. orchards to identify potential sources of Escherichia coli O157:H7. J Food Prot. 2001 Sep;64(9):1320-7. doi: 10.4315/0362-028x-64.9.1320. PMID: 11563507.
  22. Solomon EB, Yaron S, Matthews KR. Transmission of Escherichia coli O157:H7 from contaminated manure and irrigation water to lettuce plant tissue and its subsequent internalization. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2002 Jan;68(1):397-400. doi: 10.1128/AEM.68.1.397-400.2002. PMID: 11772650; PMCID: PMC126537.
  23. Warriner K, Spaniolas S, Dickinson M, Wright C, Waites WM. Internalization of bioluminescent Escherichia coli and Salmonella Montevideo in growing bean sprouts. J Appl Microbiol. 2003;95(4):719-27. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2672.2003.02037.x. PMID: 12969285.
  24. Harris LJ. Outbreaks associated with fresh produce: incidence, growth, and survival of pathogens in fresh and fresh‐cut produce. Compr Rev Food Sci. Food Saf. 2003; 2:78–141.
  25. Carrasco E, Pérez-Rodríguez F, Valero A, Garcı RM, Zurera G. Growth of Listeria monocytogenes on shredded, ready-to-eat iceberg lettuce. Food Control. 2008; 19:487–494.
  26. Likotrafiti E, Smirniotis P, Nastou A, Rhoades J. Effect of Relative Humidity and Storage Temperature on the Behavior of L isteria monocytogenes on Fresh Vegetables. J Food Saf. 2013; 33: 545–551.
  27. Tian JQ, Bae YM, Choi NY, Kang DH, Heu S, Lee SY. Survival and growth of foodborne pathogens in minimally processed vegetables at 4 and 15 °C. J Food Sci. 2012 Jan;77(1):M48-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2011.02457.x. Epub 2011 Nov 10. PMID: 22260117.
  28. Ukuku DO. Effect of hydrogen peroxide treatment on microbial quality and appearance of whole and fresh-cut melons contaminated with Salmonella spp. Int J Food Microbiol. 2004 Sep 1;95(2):137-46. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2004.01.021. PMID: 15282126.
  29. Ukuku DO, Mukhopadhyay S, Olanya M. Reducing transfer of Salmonella and aerobic mesophilic bacteria on melon rinds surfaces to fresh juice by washing with chlorine: effect of waiting period before refrigeration of prepared juice. Front Sustain Food Syst. 2018; 2: 78.
  30. Han Y, Sherman DM, Linton RH, Nielsen SS, Nelson PE. The effects of washing and chlorine dioxide gas on survival and attachment of Escherichia coli O157: H7 to green pepper surfaces. Food Microbiol. 2000; 17:521–533.
  31. Takeuchi K, Matute CM, Hassan AN, Frank JF. Comparison of the attachment of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella typhimurium, and Pseudomonas fluorescens to lettuce leaves. J Food Prot. 2000 Oct;63(10):1433-7. doi: 10.4315/0362-028x-63.10.1433. PMID: 11041147.
  32. Riederer M, Schreiber L. Protecting against water loss: analysis of the barrier properties of plant cuticles. J Exp Bot. 2001 Oct;52(363):2023-32. doi: 10.1093/jexbot/52.363.2023. PMID: 11559738.
  33. Puthmee T. The role of net development as a barrier to moisture loss in netted melon fruit (Cucumis melo L.). HortScience. 2013; 48:1463–1469.
  34. Richards GM, Beuchat LR. Attachment of Salmonella Poona to cantaloupe rind and stem scar tissues as affected by temperature of fruit and inoculum. J Food Prot. 2004 Jul;67(7):1359-64. doi: 10.4315/0362-028x-67.7.1359. PMID: 15270486.
  35. Annous BA, Solomon EB, Cooke PH, Burke A. Biofilm formation by Salmonella spp. on cantaloupe melons. J Food Saf. 2005; 25: 276-287.
  36. Ukuku DO, Fett WF. Relationship of cell surface charge and hydrophobicity to strength of attachment of bacteria to cantaloupe rind. J Food Prot. 2002 Jul;65(7):1093-9. doi: 10.4315/0362-028x-65.7.1093. PMID: 12117240.
  37. Zogaj X, Nimtz M, Rohde M, Bokranz W, Römling U. The multicellular morphotypes of Salmonella typhimurium and Escherichia coli produce cellulose as the second component of the extracellular matrix. Mol Microbiol. 2001 Mar;39(6):1452-63. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2001.02337.x. PMID: 11260463.
  38. Esteban-Cuesta I, Drees N, Ulrich S, Stauch P, Sperner B, Schwaiger K, Gareis M, Gottschalk C. Endogenous microbial contamination of melons (Cucumis melo) from international trade: an underestimated risk for the consumer? J Sci Food Agric. 2018 Oct;98(13):5074-5081. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.9045. Epub 2018 May 15. PMID: 29604072.
  39. Fang T, Liu Y, Huang L. Growth kinetics of Listeria monocytogenes and spoilage microorganisms in fresh-cut cantaloupe. Food Microbiol. 2013 May;34(1):174-81. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2012 Dec 28. PMID: 23498195.
  40. Svoboda AL. Antimicrobial efficacy of commercial produce sanitizers against artificially inoculated foodborne pathogens and natural fungal contaminants on the surface of whole melons. Iowa State University. 2015.