Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe melons death toll raised to 25 deaths across 12 states in US.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that 123 people have now been sickened in Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe.
The number of illnesses is expected to grow until Christmas as the symptoms of Listeria can take up to two months to appear.
CDC confirmed yesterday a sixth death in Colorado and a second in New York.
There are also reports of deaths in Listeria outbreak in Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming.
Until now, more than 310,000 cases of cantaloupe have been recalled in different states across US by Jensen Farms from Holly, Colorado. The cantaloupes were shipped from July 29 to September 10 to at least 24 states.
All of the victims of the Listeria outbreak so far got ill on or before July 31.
However, some of the tainted cantaloupe could have been consumed as late as September 24 – meaning the end of the illnesses may stretch until Christmas.
The average age of those who have died in the outbreak was 87 years. It was also reported that a pregnant woman has suffered a miscarriage after becoming ill.
According to experts, these outbreaks are becoming more frequent, partly because much of what we eat is carried on a long journey from farm to fork.
Dr. Brian Currie, an infectious disease specialist at Montefiore Medical Centre in New York, said:
“Increasingly with agribusiness you have limited producers of any given food, so a breakdown in a facility or plant or in a large field crop operation exposes thousands because of the way the food is distributed.”
Jensen Farms was unable to provide a list of retailers that sold the tainted cantaloupes because the products were sold and resold.
Ray Gilmer, of United Fresh Produce Association, said: “There has been a laser focus on improving traceability so any recall can identify the affected product immediately and not have an effect on the rest of the entire category.
“The stakes for a large company to have a food safety incident are huge. It could destroy their company.”
Listeria is a germ found in soil and water, often turns up in processed meats because it can contaminate a processing facility and stay there for a long period of time.
Listeria is also common in unpasteurized cheeses and unpasteurized milk, though less so produce such as cantaloupe melon.
The infection can cause fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms and even death. One in five people who have Listeria can die.
A food safety law passed by Congress in 2010 gives the FDA new power to improve tracing food through the system.
Experts say the law will help make the food network safer by focusing on making every step in the chain safer and making it easier to find the source of outbreaks.
For the first time, larger farms are required to submit plans detailing how they are keeping their produce safe.