Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak Linked to Packing Facility

Food regulators are announcing that the ongoing and deadly cantaloupe <"">Listeria outbreak has been linked to a packing facility. KKTV reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be issuing a report linking the deadly outbreak to Jensen Farm’s packing facility near Holly, Colorado.

To date, the outbreak, which has spanned the nation, has killed 23 and sickened 116 people in 25 states. Last month, the FDA discovered Listeria monocytogenes in samples of Jensen Farms’ Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupe taken from a Denver area store and on samples taken from equipment and cantaloupe at Jensen Farms’ packing facility. On September 14, Jensen Farms recalled its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes in response to the multi-state outbreak of listeriosis.

According to CBS4’s Rick Sallinger, the FDA report will discuss the outbreak’s so-called “root cause” and could be released this week, said KKTV. Jensen Farm owners have been advised that no bacteria was detected on the farm, but was found at its Granada packing facility a few miles away, noted KKTV. Owner Eric Jensen told CBS4 that Listeria was detected in the packing facility when an initial inspection took place, but was not found at an environmental assessment that occurred later, said KKTV.

Cantaloupe are harvested from the field and moved to a packing shed where they are washed before shipping, said KKTV, which noted that moisture could be a culprit in the massive outbreak. According to the farm’s owners, the packing facility, now considered the deadly outbreak’s point of origin, is cleaned routinely; they claim they don’t know how Listeria ended up on equipment there, said KKTV. Four strains of Listeria monocytogenes are involved in this outbreak.

The Listeria pathogen can lead to the dangerous and deadly listeriosis, which can cause fever and muscle aches, often preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. In other Listeria poisoning victims, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions may also be present; listeriosis can also lead to fatal meningitis or encephalitis. The typical incubation period is about one-to-three weeks; however, listeriosis symptoms can appear as quickly as within three days, but can take as long as up to two months to appear.

Pregnant women are the most susceptible to listeriosis and may exhibit only a mild, flu-like illness. Infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn. To date, four illnesses involved in this outbreak involved pregnant women; three became ill while pregnant, one suffered a miscarriage; one newborn was diagnosed with listeriosis, said WebMD previously.

The outbreak has led to a recall of over 300,000 cases of Holly, Colorado’s Jensen Farms whole Rocky Ford cantaloupes. We recently wrote that Fruit Fresh Up Inc. of Depew, New York recalled nearly 5,000 individual packages of its “Fresh Cut Cantaloupe and Cut Mixed Fruit Containing Cantaloupe” in response to the outbreak.

Cantaloupe has a shelf life of about two weeks, so the produce is likely inedible; however, consumers might have kept the produce refrigerated, not realizing that Listeria monocytogenes easily survives in the cold. Consumers are urged to discard any recalled cantaloupe and sanitize kitchen surfaces, the refrigerator, and kitchen implements that might have been in contact with the potentially tainted fruit. The investigation into the origin of the Listeria poisoning outbreak continues.

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