A third person has died from listeria linked to contaminated rockmelon as the number of cases across Australia rises.
NSW Health on Friday confirmed the death of an infected Victorian following two others from NSW earlier in the week.
A total of 15 people have now been diagnosed with listeria, with four Victorians and one Tasmanian joining 10 other confirmed cases, a spokeswoman told AAP.
The most recent case was diagnosed on February 22.
“All 15 cases are elderly people, and most of them have significant underlying health conditions,” NSW Health’s communicable diseases director Dr Vicky Sheppeard said in a statement on Friday.
“We can confirm that 13 of the 15 cases consumed rockmelon before the onset of their illness.”
Australians have been urged to throw out any melons purchased before Wednesday after the outbreak was linked to a rockmelon grower in Nericon, near Griffith.
The producer voluntarily stopped production after being told of the contamination.
Australian Melon Association’s Dianne Fullelove said the grower was devastated and would need to meet the requirements set by the NSW Food Authority before resuming production.
Crisis talks were held between the association and retailers across the country on Thursday with the melon industry agreeing to review how it packs its fruit.
Following the meeting, current rockmelon suppliers were asked to produce evidence their fruit was uncontaminated, Ms Fullelove said.
“They (retailers) were very supportive of the industry,” Ms Fullelove told AAP.
“Going forward we will assess how we manage packing sheets and hopefully start some research in this space to make sure we give the growers the latest information.”
Eating foods that contain the listeria bacteria does not cause illness in most people. But for people with a compromised immune system, the elderly and pregnant women, it can result in severe illness and even death.
Vulnerable people should avoid pre-cut melon.
Listeria starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and sometimes diarrhoea. But the symptoms can take a few days or weeks to appear after eating contaminated produce.
People at risk should consult their doctor as soon as possible if symptoms appear.