Listeria Deaths Rise To 16 Due To Tainted Cantaloupe

Listeria in cantaloupes has caused at least 23 deaths.

A possible listeria illness traced to Colorado cantaloupe has killed as many as 16 people.

Eight deaths and 55 ilnesses across 18 states were linked to the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week, as reported by CBS News. Since then, state and local health departments in Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming have reported six additional deaths that may be linked to the tainted fruit.

The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration said consumers who have cantaloupes produced by Jensen Farms in Colorado should throw them out, the Washington Post reports. Neither the government nor Jensen Farms has supplied a list of retailers who may have sold the fruit.

“If it’s not Jensen Farms, it’s OK to eat,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, the Wasington Post reports. “But if you can’t confirm it’s not Jensen Farms, then it’s best to throw it out.”

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, as reported by the Washington Post. 

Listeria is more deadly than more well-known pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, though those outbreaks generally cause many more illnesses, CBS reports. 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, a subsidiary of Sara Lee Corp. Another large listeria outbreak in 1985 killed 52 people and was linked to Mexican-style soft cheese, according to CBS. Listeria generally only sickens the elderly, pregnant women and others with compromised immune systems, CBS reports. The CDC said last week that the median age of those sickened was 78. Sherri McGarry, a senior adviser in the FDA’s Office of Foods, told the Washington Post the agency is looking at the farm’s water supply and possible animal intrusions among other things in trying to figure out how the cantaloupes became contaminated.
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