While it appears that the source of the listeria contaminated cantaloupes has been identified, unsolved mysteries remain.
One victim, in Maryland, a location where none of the contaminated fruit was expected to be, has died, and authorities are at a loss when it comes to figuring out how she was exposed.
However, more and more states are reporting outbreaks and it appears that the cataloupes were widely distributed. The victims of the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak are from 18 states so far, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. According to the CDC, 72 people have been sickened in this listeria outbreak, and 8 have died.
Authorities are also reporting this outbreak may be the first of it’s kind. Cantaloupe has been linked to outbreaks of Salmonella and norovirus in the past, but this is the first documented outbreak of listeria from contaminated whole cantaloupes. The outbreak also involves four different strains listeria. An unusual and so far unexplained occurrence. “The reasons for that are under investigation,” said Barbara Mahon, MD, deputy branch chief with the CDC’s enteric disease branch.
Of concern is the incubation period of listeria, from two weeks up to two months from the time of ingestion. This may mean there will be many more cases before this outbreak runs its course. Also, adding to an extended time frame – listeria can continue to thrive even when refrigerated – leading to a fear that some contaminated cantaloupes may be sitting in consumer’s refrigerators. Dangerous time bombs waiting to be eaten.
The cantaloupe at the source of the outbreak came from Jensen Farms, in Colorado, which began recalling the cantaloupes on September 14th. Resellers in at least 25 states are now reported to have received shipments. In addition the the states with confirmed cases, cantaloupes from Jensen Farms were also shipped to Arizona, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Missouri, Wyoming, Utah, Minnesota, and Tennessee.