Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak Takes the Lives of 29

A nationwide listeria outbreak in contaminated cantaloupe has gripped the country. Claiming 29 lives, the cantaloupe listeria outbreak is among the deadliest food poisoning outbreaks since 1924. Thousands of pounds of Jensen Farms and Carol’s Cuts cantaloupes have been recalled due to concerns about listeria contamination.

Specifically, the recalls include several hundred pounds of fresh-cut cantaloupe shipped from Carol’s Cuts LLC in Kansas City. The cantaloupe was sold in 5-pound trays as chunks and as an ingredient in 8-ounce containers of mixed fruit medley between August 26, 2011 and September 12, 2011 to institutional food customers, including restaurants in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

In September 2011, Jensen Farms in Colorado recalled whole Rocky Ford cantaloupes. Jensen Farms ceased production and distribution of its cantaloupes while an investigation was conducted by the company and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into the cause of the contamination. The FDA determined that the listeria contamination was caused by poor sanitary practices at a packing facility.

The recalled Jensen Farms cantaloupes were shipped between July 29, 2011 and September 10, 2011, and distributed to a variety of states, including Illinois. The cantaloupes have a green and white sticker that reads: Product of USA- Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford-Cantaloupe or a gray, yellow, and green sticker that reads: Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords.

Even though the contaminated cantaloupes have been recalled for nearly two months now, illnesses and deaths continue to rise due to the fact that listeria, a foodborne illness that can cause stillbirths, illness and death, can live in the body for several weeks before causing a person to become ill. To date, the listeria outbreak has been blamed for at least 139 illnesses and 29 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms of listeria include muscle aches, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, severe headaches and fever. Listeria infections can be diagnosed by blood tests and are treated with antibiotics.

Food Safety Recommendations

The FDA recommends that consumers follow the following food safety tips:

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops and sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water. Use a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used to dry the surfaces.
  • Immediately clean up spills in the refrigerator.
  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitization process.

Food Safety Modernization Act

As we earlier reported, the Food Safety Modernization Act was passed by Congress at the end of December 2010 in an effort to reduce the number of people that are sick, hospitalized or die from foodborne illnesses each year. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “about 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne illnesses. Under the food safety bill, the FDA hopes that by holding everyone in today’s global food chain responsible and accountable for controlling hazards that can cause foodborne illnesses, foodborne illness can be prevented and reduced.

The Chicago product liability attorneys at Ankin Law Offices, LLC are committed to product safety and consumer rights. For more information on the cantaloupe listeria outbreak and food safety, contact one of our Chicago food safety attorneys at (800) 442-6546.

Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

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