Listeria Outbreak May Have Been Caused By Packaging
October 19, 2011

Listeria Outbreak May Have Been Caused By Packaging

Health authorities said on Wednesday that the cantaloupe in Colorado that caused the listeria outbreak were contaminated during the packing process.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the outbreak was the worst in over a decade in the U.S. and has killed 25 people and caused one pregnant woman to miscarry since July.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it has identified several factors that contributed to the introduction, spread, and growth of Listeria monocytogenes in the cantaloupes.

"There could have been low level sporadic Listeria monocytogenes in the field where the cantaloupe were grown, which could have been introduced into the packing facility," the FDA said in a statement.

"A truck used to haul culled cantaloupe to a cattle operation was parked adjacent to the packing facility and could have introduced contamination into the facility," it added.

The examination of the packing facility showed there was pooled water on the floor near the equipment and employee walkways.

"The packing facility floor was constructed in a manner that made it difficult to clean," the FDA statement said.

"The packing equipment was not easily cleaned and sanitized; washing and drying equipment used for cantaloupe packing was previously used for postharvest handling of another raw agricultural commodity."

The melons were not allowed to pre-cool from the hot field after picking and prior to going into cold storage, which is a process that could have allowed condensation to form "that promoted the growth of Listeria monocytogenes."

The CDC said illnesses have been reported in 26 states from the cantaloupes at Jensen Farms in Colorado. 

Listeriosis is dangerous to the elderly, those with weak immune systems and pregnant women.

Listeriosis can cause diarrhea, fever, muscle aches and other flu-like symptoms.

Only cantaloupes from Jensen Farms are behind the outbreak and none were shipped outside the U.S.


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