Every day dietary products, like fresh cantalope can poss serious problems including death , says Alabama liability attorney Keith T. Belt
Federal health officials said Wednesday more illnesses and possibly more deaths may be linked to an outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe in coming weeks. So far, the outbreak has caused at least 72 illnesses, including up to 16 deaths, in 18 states, making it the deadliest food outbreak in the United States in more than a decade.
The heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said consumers who have cantaloupes produced by Jensen Farms in Colorado should throw them out. If they are not sure where the fruit is from, they shouldn’t eat it. Neither the government nor Jensen Farms has supplied a list of retailers that may have sold the fruit, so consumers should ask retailers about the origins of their cantaloupe and if they still aren’t sure, they should get rid of it. Jensen Farms of Holly, Colo., said it shipped cantaloupes to 25 states, although the FDA has said it may be more, and illnesses have been discovered in several states that were not on the shipping list. A spokeswoman for Jensen Farms said the company’s product is often sold and resold, so they do not always know where it went.
The recalled cantaloupes may be labeled “Colorado Grown,” “Distributed by Frontera Produce,” “Jensenfarms.com” or “Sweet Rocky Fords.” Not all of the recalled cantaloupes are labeled with a sticker, the FDA said. The company said it shipped more than 300,000 cases of cantaloupes that contained five to 15 melons, meaning the recall involved 1.5 million to 4.5 million pieces of fruit. FDA Commissioner said that illnesses are expected for weeks to come because the incubation period for listeria can be a month or more. Jensen Farms last shipped cantaloupes Sept. 10 which means that someone who ate contaminated cantaloupe last week may not get sick until October or even early November.
The FDA said state health officials found listeria in cantaloupes taken from Colorado grocery stores and from a victim’s home that were grown at Jensen Farms. Matching strains of the disease were found on equipment and cantaloupe samples at Jensen Farms’ packing facility in Granada, Colo. and the agency is looking at the farm’s water supply for possible animal intrusions, among other things, in trying to figure out how the cantaloupes became contaminated. Listeria bacteria grow in moist, muddy conditions and are often carried by animals.
Health officials said this is the first known outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe, since other cantaloupe outbreaks in the last decade are mostly from salmonella. Listeria is more deadly than well-known pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, although those outbreaks generally cause many more illnesses. Twenty-one people died in an outbreak of listeria poisoning in 1998 traced to contaminated hot dogs and possibly deli meats made by Bil Mar Foods Co., a subsidiary of Sara Lee Corp. Another large listeria outbreak, in 1985, killed 52 people and was linked to Mexican-style soft cheese.
The CDC said Tuesday that 13 deaths are linked to the tainted fruit and officials say they are investigating three additional deaths that may be connected. The death toll released by the CDC on Tuesday surpassed the number of deaths linked to an outbreak of salmonella in peanuts almost three years ago where 9 people died. The CDC reported four deaths in New Mexico, two deaths each in Colorado and Texas and one death each in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Maryland.