A salmonella outbreak tied to tainted cantaloupe has now killed eight people — three in the U.S. and five in Canada, health officials reported Thursday.
The Public Health Agency of Canada saysfive people have died in an outbreak linked to Malichita and Rudy brand cantaloupes sold in six provinces. 129 people have been confirmed with salmonella linked to the outbreak, almost double the number at the last update on Dec. 1, when a single death had been recorded.
The agency provided no details on the deaths in its latest update on Thursday, but cases have risen sharply in Quebec, with 91 confirmed infections compared to 35 last week.
There are also 17 cases in Ontario, 15 in British Columbia, and two each in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.
The agency says 45 per cent of those who became ill were aged 65 and older while more than a third were children five and younger.
It says people became sick between mid-October and mid-November, and 44 have been hospitalized, adding other salmonella infections are being investigated.
“People who are infected with salmonella bacteria can spread salmonella to other people several days to several weeks after they have become infected, even if they don’t have symptoms,” the update says.
Consumers are being warned not to buy, eat or sell Malichita or Rudy brand cantaloupe. The agency says any brands of the fruit that can’t be verified should be thrown out.
It issued food recall warnings three times in November for Malichita cantaloupes sold between Oct. 11 and Nov. 14.
On Nov. 24, it updated its warning to include Rudy brand cantaloupes sold between Oct. 10 and Nov. 24.
In the U.S., at least 230 people have been ill in 38 states and 96 have been hospitalized since mid-November, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many of the people who fell ill reported eating pre-cut cantaloupe in clamshell packages and trays sold in stores. Consumers should not buy, eat or serve cantaloupe, if they don’t know the source, the CDC said.
New recalls of whole and pre-cut fruit have been added to a growing list, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said. Last week, Cut Fruit Express initiated a recall of cantaloupe chunks and fruit mixes containing cantaloupe. On Tuesday, TGD Cuts, LLC launched a recall of specific fresh fruit cup, clamshell and tray products that contained cantaloupe from the company TruFresh.
Health officials are still working to determine whether additional products are linked to the illnesses.
Salmonella can cause serious illness in young children, people older than 65 and those with weakened immune systems.