The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported another death due to the listeria outbreak caused by contaminated cantaloupes. This brings the number of deaths so far to 29, plus one miscarriage. So far, 139 people have been sickened by the contaminated cantaloupe.
The number of deaths makes this the worse outbreak of a food-borne illness in the US since 1985, according to the CDC, who began keeping records in 1973. The 1985 outbreak was due to cheese that was contaminated with listeria. 52 people died (this number includes 19 stillbirths).
The source of the cantaloupe related outbreak has been tracked to Jensen Farms of Holly, Colorado. The first recall was issued on September 15, and covered all cantaloupe shipped from Jensen Farms from July 29 through September 10.
Investigating the source, the FDA found that listeria was present on dirty, corroded equipment which Jensen Farms had purchased, used, that had previously been used in potato farming. They believe that the past use of the equipment may have played a role in the outbreak. The FDA also reported that water on the floor of the plant and on the cantaloupe conveyor belt was also laced with listeria.
Those who have died from the current listeria outbreak range in ages from 1 to 96. The CDC continues to recommend that “consumers not eat whole or pre-cut Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupe from Jensen Farms.” They said that advice is especially important for the elderly, the pregnant, and those with weakened immune systems. They also state that cantaloupes that are “are known to NOT have come from Jensen Farms are safe to eat.” Cantaloupe from unknown sources should be thrown out, according to the CDC, who included in their statement “when in doubt, throw it out.”