Listeria Deaths Number 29 With 139 Infected From Cantaloupes
November 3, 2011

Listeria Deaths Number 29 With 139 Infected From Cantaloupes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its latest bulletin yesterday that the number of deaths linked to Colorado-grown cantaloupes tainted with listeria has risen to 29 and 139 people infected across 28 states, Fox News is reporting.

Eight deaths have been reported in Colorado; five in New Mexico; three in Kansas; two each in Texas, New York, Missouri and Louisiana; and one each in Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Wyoming. Additionally, a pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage after she fell ill.

Congressional Representatives are planning to investigate the ongoing outbreak with members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and have written to the owners of Jensen Farms, the Colorado farm where the cantaloupes responsible for the outbreak originated, Lisa Baertlein of Reuters reports.

The lawmakers asked the Jensens “to brief committee staff and preserve documents related to the outbreak of listeria.” The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously concluded that unsanitary conditions and contaminated equipment at the farm´s packing plant may have played a role in the outbreak.

The lawmakers have also contacted the FDA and the CDC, asking the two agencies to discuss what could be done to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future, Rampton added.

Attorneys at Marler Clark, a law firm that represents victims of food-borne illnesses, speaking to Western Farm Press, said, “In this day and age, people should not be hospitalized or die because of something they ate,” managing partner William Marler told the trade magazine.

“Food producers and distributors have a responsibility to consumers to sell food that is unadulterated and free of food-borne pathogens such as listeria -- no exceptions.”

The deadliest known food-borne listeria outbreak in the US previously was in 1985, when Mexican-style soft cheese contaminated with listeria was tied to the deaths of 18 adults and 10 newborns, as well as 20 miscarriages, according to a CDC report.

Listeriosis has a long incubation period, with symptoms sometimes not showing up until two months after people consume tainted foods.

What this shows is that these bugs are very opportunistic,” food safety attorney and advocate Bill Marler said. “As long as you have a cool, wet environment and a product that is ready-to-eat, you´re always going to have a risk of listeria contamination, which is why the sanitation of the plant is so critical.”


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