Listeria in Cantaloupe: Deadliest Food Outbreak in Over a Decade!
As many as sixteen people have died to date from possible listeria illnesses that can be traced to Colorado cantaloupes. The CDC (that’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you haven’t seen Contagion yet), announced Tuesday that seventy-two illnesses, including thirteen deaths, had been linked to the tainted fruit. The number of potential deaths has risen by three overnight as state and local officials investigate other possibly connected fatalities. That makes this the deadliest food outbreak in more than a decade.
There have been two confirmed deaths this week in Texas and one death each in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Last week the CDC reported two deaths in Colorado, four in New Mexico, one in Oklahoma and one in Maryland.
While Salmonella and E. coli are more well known, Listeria is actually a more deadly pathogen and outbreaks usually cause more illnesses than other common food borne bugs. The last major listeria outbreak killed twenty-one people. Listeria generally attacks those who are elderly, pregnant or have weakened immune systems.
The recalled cantaloupe may have several different labels. “Colorado Grown,” “Distributed by Frontera Produce,” “Jensenfarms.com” or “Sweet Rocky Fords” are all names to look out for. But not all recalled cantaloupes are labeled, according to the FDA. Listeria can grow even at refrigerator temperatures, so if you have any cantaloupe you think might be contaminated, the CDC recommends you throw it out immediately and sanitize any surfaces it may have touched.