INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - An Indiana farm linked to a deadly outbreak of salmonella in cantaloupes said Wednesday it had voluntarily withdrawn its watermelons from the market and was working with state and federal officials to find the source of the foodborne illness in the larger fruits.
Chamberlain Farm Produce Inc. of Owensville issued a statement saying it was unaware of anyone becoming ill from eating any of its watermelons.
"We are continuing to cooperate fully with authorities at the FDA and the Indiana State Department of Health to determine the full facts about the source of the salmonella found on our watermelon," the statement said.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Pat El-Hinnawy confirmed the agency was investigating watermelon from Chamberlain, located about 20 miles north of Evansville in southwestern Indiana.
The investigation was first reported Wednesday by the Evansville Courier & Press.
Indiana State Department of Health spokeswoman Amy Reel said the watermelon strain was found as a result of an inspection of the farm prompted by the cantaloupe salmonella outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that outbreak affected 204 people in 22 states, including Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois. Two of those people died and 78 were hospitalized.
The farm produces only cantaloupes and watermelons, Reel said.
She confirmed that no illnesses have been linked to the watermelon. But she said the same strain of salmonella as found in the watermelon has been linked to some illnesses.
The CDC reported last month that the strain identified in the watermelon was among three salmonella strains linked to live poultry identified in 163 people from 26 states, including Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois.
St. Louis-based grocery chain Schnucks announced last week that it had removed Chamberlain Farms watermelons from all of its stores in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin, Missouri after being contacted by the farm.
Chamberlain Farms attorney Gary Zhao of Chicago said he could not disclose any information beyond the company's statement. The statement did not reveal where the watermelons were distributed, but Reel said the distribution area for the watermelons was smaller than for the cantaloupes.
On Aug. 28, the FDA confirmed that cantaloupe samples from Chamberlain Farms showed evidence of salmonella matching the strain associated with the multistate outbreak.
Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.
The FDA had announced a recall of Chamberlain Farms' cantaloupes on Aug. 22, though the farm had already voluntarily removed its cantaloupes from the marketplace.