Texans Sue Over Cantaloupe Listeria Death

A negligence lawsuit has been filed against Jensen Farms by the family of an 89-year-old North Texas woman. The lawsuit alleges that her death was the result of consuming <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/listeria">Listeria-tainted Jensen Cantaloupe.

The lawsuit was filed in Dallas, Texas against the Jensen Farms of Holly, Colorado, and states that Marie Jones died in the hospital on September 23, The Associated Press (AP) wrote. Jones’ children, Russell Jones and Terri Blackmon, filed the lawsuit last week, also naming Frontera Produce Ltd. of Edinburg, the AP added. According to the AP, a Frontera spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit; a message left with Jensen Farms was not immediately returned.

As we’ve written, the list of dead linked to the nationwide Jensen Farm cantaloupe Listeria outbreak has risen to 28, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The outbreak has been described as the deadliest foodborne Listeria outbreak in the United States in over two decades.

Whole or pre-cut Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes from Colorado’s Jensen Farms have been blamed in the 26-state outbreak that sickened 133 people. As we’ve noted, a pregnant woman also suffered a miscarriage as a result of Listeria poisoning, according to the CDC. Four illnesses involved in this outbreak involved pregnant women, the most susceptible to the Listeria monocytogenes pathogen. Three other women fell ill while pregnant and one newborn was diagnosed with listeriosis, the infection caused by the Listeria pathogen.

Dirty equipment has been named as the culprit in the outbreak that involves four different strains of the dangerous Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Although the FDA could not identify the outbreak’s exact cause, it did cite violations in sanitary conditions.

For instance, the FDA wrote that, “These positive swabs were taken from different locations throughout the washing and packing areas in your facility, all of which were either food contact surfaces or areas adjacent to food contact surfaces…. This significant percentage of swabs that tested positive for outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes demonstrates widespread contamination throughout your facility and indicates poor sanitary practices in the facility.”

FDA tests, it said in its letter, found that one probable cause was packing equipment that “was not easily cleaned and sanitized” as well as washing and drying equipment and other raw agricultural commodities. Jensen cantaloupe are harvested from the field and moved to a packing shed for washing before shipping; moisture is a likely issue. Meanwhile, the farm’s owners claim that the packing facility, considered the point of origin, is cleaned routinely and state that they do not understand how the pathogen ended up on its equipment. The outbreak has led to a recall of over 300,000 cases of Jensen whole Rocky Ford cantaloupes.

The incubation period for listeriosis can be as long as two months and can lead to fever and muscle aches, often preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions and even fatal meningitis or encephalitis. Pregnant women, who are the most susceptible, may exhibit a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.

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