The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week halted imports of Mexican cantaloupes until it can verify they are produced in more sanitary conditions.

The FDA is reacting to repeated food-poisoning outbreaks linked to the imported melons. FDA said it was stopping the imports before the fall season begins for Mexican cantaloupes, so that produce already on store shelves should not be affected.

In the last three years, imported Mexican cantaloupes have been linked to four outbreaks of salmonella infection that killed two people and hospitalised at least 18 people.

A report on Food Ingredients Online notes that the FDA blames poor sanitation in the growing, packing and shipping the cantaloupes, and that for over a year it has not allowed imports of certain brands. However, because FDA workers have found salmonella-tainted cantaloupes in most of Mexico's growing regions, "this week's action expands the import stop to all brands until the FDA and Mexican government finish developing a food-safety programme to improve sanitation.