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updated: 9/12/2012 5:30 PM

Farm linked to salmonella pulls watermelons

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Associated Press

OWENSVILLE, Ind. -- A southwestern Indiana farm linked to a deadly outbreak of salmonella in cantaloupes said Wednesday it had voluntarily withdrawn its watermelons from the market and was working with state and federal officials to find the source of the foodborne illness in the larger fruits.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.

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"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 Shelly Burgess confirmed her agency was investigating watermelon from Chamberlain, located about 20 miles north of Evansville.

Indiana State Department of Health spokeswoman Amy Reel wrote in an email to the Evansville Courier & Press that the watermelon investigation was unrelated to the cantaloupe investigation.

"The strain and DNA fingerprinting on the salmonella found in the watermelon are different from the salmonella connected with the cantaloupe," the email said.

"We are not aware of any illnesses directly linked to watermelon at Chamberlain Farms at this time," it said.

St. Louis-based grocery chain Schnucks said it removed Chamberlain Farms watermelons from all of its stores after being contacted by the farm.

"We're erring on the side of caution," said Schnucks spokeswoman Lori Willis.

On Aug. 28, the FDA confirmed that cantaloupe samples from Chamberlain Farms showed evidence of salmonella matching the strain associated with a multistate outbreak.

That outbreak affected 204 people in 22 states, including Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two of those people died and 78 were hospitalized.

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.

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