Athena Cantaloupes Recalled for Possible Listeria

Athena cantaloupes have been recalled for potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) just announced.

Burch Equipment LLC, of Faison, North Carolina, is voluntarily recalling 580 cases of whole Athena cantaloupes; the FDA and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture are collaborating with Burch Equipment LLC after a random sample of an Athena cantaloupe testing positive for the dangerous, potentially fatal, Listeria pathogen.

The samples involved were shipped to New York and Maine and the testing was carried out in New York as part of sampling conducted through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Microbiological Data Program. The whole Athena cantaloupes were shipped July 15 and distributed to retail stores operating in New York and Maine; however, it is likely those distributors sent the potentially contaminated fruit to additional states. Grocery store owners should be aware that the FDA also learned that the cantaloupes were packed into sweet potato cartons.

Burch Equipment LLC advises consumers in possession of recalled Athena cantaloupes to destroy the product as a precautionary measure. Whole Athena cantaloupes are identified by a red label that states “Burch Farms” and references “PLU #4319.” Burch Equipment LLC can be reached by telephone at 1.910.267.5781 or by email at

We recently wrote that, following a headline-making deadly Listeria outbreak last year involving cantaloupes, Colorado cantaloupe growers were working hard to regain their consumer base. That massive Listeria poisoning outbreak spanned 28 states in what a Congressional committee described as the “deadliest food-borne occurrence in 25 years.” According to the report, 146 people were sickened; one woman suffered a miscarriage, another four illnesses involved pregnant women, and one newborn was diagnosed with listeriosis, the infection caused by the Listeria pathogen.

That Listeria outbreak originated with Jensen Farms having ignored FDA guidelines and involved four different Listeria. The Congressional investigation revealed that the massive outbreak might have been avoided had Jensen Farms of Holly, Colorado, followed U.S. guidelines that say fruit should be washed in chlorinated water, among other violations. Jensen Farms filed for bankruptcy following the deadly outbreak.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with the recent recalled cantaloupes; however, as we’ve long explained, the Listeria pathogen is unique because it thrives in colder temperatures, such as those found in refrigerated environments, and has an unusually long incubation period—up to 70 days, according to experts. The pathogen also well tolerates heat and dry temperatures, adding further challenges to the pathogen’s eradication and length to expected reporting time frames.

Listeria monocytogenes can lead to the listeriosis infection, a potentially fatal disorder that can cause high fever; severe headache, neck stiffness, abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhea, and nausea, especially in those with weakened immune systems, infants, and the elderly. Vulnerable populations, such as the developing fetus, can suffer serious central nervous system problems. The infection can also prompt premature births, or the death of the fetus via miscarriage and stillbirth; pregnant women are 20 times likelier to become infected. Listeriosis can lead to hearing loss or brain damage in newborns, and to neurological effects and cardio respiratory failure in adults.

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