In The News: Cantaloupe Linked to the Deadliest Listeria Outbreak in a Decade

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calling the latest listeria outbreak the deadliest in a decade. The culprit, you ask? Oddly enough, cantaloupe.

So far, 72 people have been infected with listeria resulting from the contaminated cantaloupe. It extends to the following 18 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and–my home sweet, home–Kansas. 13 have died as a result in the United States. 

So far, there have been five cases, one of which is in Johnson County, of listeriosis in Kansas linked to the contaminated cantaloupes. All of the cases have been traced back to Jensen Farms, a farm in Colorado that boasts that their cantaloupe, Rocky Ford Cantaloupe, is the sweetest around.

The latest listeria outbreak was linked to Jensen Farms’s Rock Ford Cantaloupe.
Photo by eddie.welker/Courtesy

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is urging consumers not to eat Rocky Ford Cantaloupe shipped by Jensen Farms, shipped between July 29 and September 10, 2011, and to throw away any of the products that may still be lurking in their fridge. The organization is stressing that older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women in particular should steer clear of this cantaloupe.

If you have recently consumed Rocky Ford Cantaloupe and are experiencing any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately: fever, muscle aches, nausea or diarrhea. These symptoms usually last up to one week and then resolve. Even if symptoms have disappeared, you should still see your medical provider immediately, as severe complications can still result.

Hopefully this latest outbreak of listeria ends soon. However, even after it has fizzled out, it’s still important to handle produce safely. Here are some tips:

• Purchase fruits and vegetables that are not bruised or damaged.
• When selecting fresh-cut produce, choose the items that are well-refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
• When bagging produce, keep it separate from meat, poultry, and seafood products.
• Store produce in a clean refrigerator at 40 degrees or below.
• Refrigerate all your fruits and veggies that are pre-cut or peeled.
• Before and after preparing, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap.
• Discard all rotten produce, and be sure to cut off any damaged or bruised areas on fresh produce.
• Do not wash produce with soap or detergent.
• Scrub firm fruits and veggies, like melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
• After washing, dry product with a clean cloth or paper towel. 

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