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Listeria Outbreak Toll Rises

The deaths of a Nebraska man in his 80s and a 95-year-old Missouri woman, plus five cases of Listeria infection in Kansas, were confirmed Friday by state health departments, increasing the toll in the multistate outbreak caused by contaminated cantaloupes from Colorado’s Jensen Farms.  

The confirmations bring the total number of people infected with outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes to at least 61, with 10 or more deaths.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not done an official update since Sept. 21 when it reported 55 persons sickened by Listeria monocytogenes in 14 states, with eight dead.

Kansas has eight cases of listeriosis, including two deaths, with five cases now confirmed to be part of the outbreak. Missouri was investigating two cases of listeriosis, one of those is now confirmed to be connected to the contaminated cantaloupe.

Addition of the cases means the cantaloupe-caused 2011 Listeria outbreak is now larger than Canada’s 2008 Listeria outbreak, which was caused by contaminated ready-to-eat meats.  

It remains to be seen whether the current Listeria outbreak will turn out to be as deadly.   Canada saw 23 deaths out of 57 cases for a fatality rate of 40 percent.  The median age of the victims in the ongoing Listeria outbreak is 78.  

Listeriosis, the illness caused by Listeria, primarily occurs among older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, pregnant women,a d newborns. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and vomiting.  Symptoms typically occur three to 70 days after exposure.

The number of infected persons identified in each state is as follows:  California (1), Colorado (14), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Kansas (5), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), Montana (1), Nebraska (4), New Mexico (10), Oklahoma (8), Texas (9), Virginia (1), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (1).

Jensen Farms recalled its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes on Sept. 14. Initially, the FDA said the melons were distributed to 17 states by Texas-based Frontera Produce, but Friday the agency said the contaminated cantaloupes went to 25 states.

The recalled cantaloupes were shipped from July 29 through September 10, 2011 to Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming, the FDA said.

Because cantaloupe shelf life can be as long as two weeks, it is possible that some of the recalled product could still be in commerce or in home refrigerators. The FDA advised consumers to check with their retailer to find out where the cantaloupe they purchased originated, adding that it is the retailers’ responsibility to know the source of their products.

The cantaloupe may be labeled: Colorado Grown, Distributed by Frontera Produce, USA, Pesticide Free, Jensenfarms.com, Sweet Rocky Fords. Some cantaloupes may also have been unlabeled.

If consumers have the recalled cantaloupe in their home, is should be discarded immediately.

Symptoms of listeriosis include fever and muscle aches, often preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost everyone who is diagnosed with listeriosis has “invasive” infection, in which the bacteria spread beyond the gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms vary with the infected person:

Pregnant women: Pregnant women typically experience only a mild, flu-like illness. However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.

Persons other than pregnant women: Symptoms, in addition to fever and muscle aches, can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.

© Food Safety News
  • http://www.jakesfarm.com organicfarmer

    It’s really sad that farms and farmers are getting the brunt of this. I am sad these people died, but median age of 78…. give me a break. I my opinion there is no possible way to make all food safe for all people. I grow food, take extreme precautions to keep the farm as clean from pathogens as possible, but these bacteria are everywhere in the soil. Advances in science are a double edged sword. People have succumbed from so-called food poisons since the beginning of time. It’s probably good common sense to not eat raw foods if you’re old or have a compromised immune system. Now pathogenic bacteria have been found inside the cells of lettuce. No amount of washing will ‘clean’ it.

  • Gloria

    Were any cantaloupe shipped to Florida, especially Cocoa, Fl.32926

  • http://www.marlerblog.com bill marler

    I posted this response to “organicfarmer” over at my blog:
    What’s the big deal, Listeria cantaloupe has ONLY killed a dozen or so – and they were old anyway?
    Likely by Monday, the CDC will increase its Listeria illness and death count of 55 and eight. By Monday afternoon the counted illnesses will certainly be well over 60, and I expect deaths to be a dozen and perhaps more. Of course, there are likely many others sickened who will never be counted, and others who died or miscarried who will never be tallied.
    So far I have counted 2 dead in Colorado, 2 dead in Kansas, 1 dead in Maryland, 1 dead in Missouri, 1 dead in Nebraska, 4 deaths in New Mexico, and 1 dead in Oklahoma. Surviving families in Colorado, Maryland, Nebraska and Oklahoma have retained us, and we have spent more than a few hours with them hearing their sad stories. Three other clients cling to life in ICU’s in other states. Several others who survived are either in a rehab or recovering at home – and wondering how far their health will come back. Uniformly, you hear of a horrible infectious illness as the Listeria bacterium made it’s way into the blood stream and spinal fluid. You also hear of the shock of nearly dying or watching your spouse or parent die before their time.
    And, I spent a quite day on Friday with my mom and dad who are both in their 80’s, living together on the small farm where I was raised. Watching them care for each other, I could not help but think how they, and I, would have responded if one or both of them had consumed the Jensen Farms/Frontera cantaloupe.
    So, I really was not in much of a mood to get this email from someone with the tag line – “organicfarmer” – left a comment at Food Safety News:
    “It’s really sad that farms and farmers are getting the brunt of this. I am sad these people died, but median age of 78…. give me a break. I my opinion there is no possible way to make all food safe for all people. I grow food, take extreme precautions to keep the farm as clean from pathogens as possible, but these bacteria are everywhere in the soil. Advances in science are a double edged sword. People have succumbed from so-called food poisons since the beginning of time. It’s probably good common sense to not eat raw foods if you’re old or have a compromised immune system. Now pathogenic bacteria have been found inside the cells of lettuce. No amount of washing will ‘clean’ it.”
    It is stunning frankly. Yes, the non-Jensen Farms/Frontera cantaloupe growers do deserve our support, but the comment “but median age of 78…. give me a break…. It’s probably good common sense to not eat raw foods if you’re old or have a compromised immune system.”
    I wish “organicfarmer” had spent time on the phone with my clients, or spent the day with my parents. “Organicfarmer,” people should not become disabled, die or miscarry because they ate a cantaloupe.

  • http://www.jakesfarm.com organicfarmer

    I posted a a rebutal to Mr. Marler on his blog, I doubt he will post it. I am moved to write another one here.
    I own a certified organic farm in Asheville, NC and have been continously certified since 1998.
    The point he so aptly glossed over I hoped to make is THERE IS NO WAY TO MAKE ALL FOOD SAFE FOR ALL PEOPLE. E.coli has been found inside the cells of lettuce. I don’t use manure in any form on our farm, never have and never will. The use of manure on farms when properly applied is only a small risk compared with other ways in which these ubiquitous bacteria spread.
    I grow green plants to improve my soil. I am also a certified organic processor and make and sell value added foods to the public. I have a more than basic education in the matters of food safety.
    I don’t hide behind the protection of a corporation or even a LLC. People like Mr. Marler scare the hell out of me. My 2 million product liability insurance will not save our farm should he ever decide to come after me. I will lose everything I have worked for my whole life.
    My mom died from blood clots she developed on a transatlatic flight to visit her sister in the UK. My dad died from heat exposure in a sauna in an exclusive tennis club in Fl.
    God saved me from two suicide attempts in my youth. I firmly believe you don’t get off planet Earth until your number is pulled, and can’t leave early no matter what.
    I hate republicans and democrats alike. Common sense has fled America and we have become a litigious society. Lawyers are supposed to protect our constitutional rights, not get rich off the misfortunes of others which seems to be the status now.
    I have tesitified on the proposed regulations concerning the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. You can read much about how new food safety regs will put many small farms out of business in the congressional record on that subject, my opinions are included there. GAP regulations are another way we will lose many small growers. If one of my farm dogs are found in a field I get an automatic failure grade, the inspector gets in his car and leaves. My farm dogs do a great job controlling vermin and reptiles. Reptiles are one of the biggest hazards concerning samonella and cannot be controlled by the ten foot high fence required by LGMA *which this farmer cannot afford*.
    What is stunning is the millions upon millions that Mr. Marler has amassed in the focus of his practice. He is not saving lives or producing a product that sustains life. Bacterial outbreaks abound. He doesn’t know me, but I have a lawyer friend of the family that practices in his hometown and knows him. I certainly don’t like the way he twisted my words to sensationalize my comments. I resent him and all he stands for.
    If he needs a cause, look at the deaths caused by addiction in all it’s myriad forms in this country… or obesity…. or stupid wars for that matter. No one ever stopped an idea with a death. If the pen is truly mighter than the sword, I have an obligation and duty to write my thoughts down. I am deeply grateful to Food Safety News for publishing my earlier comment. I am an avid reader and try to do my part to insure the long life of not only our farm, but our customers. I spray regularly at great expense with Oxidate to insure our food, at least, is a safe as possible. I cannot promise it is safe for everyone.
    I have also owned and operated three restaurants in early years before I became a disabled construction worker and this farm was born.

  • http://www.marlerclark.com bill marler

    Actually, “organicfarmer” – I did post your comment:
    http://www.marlerblog.com/lawyer-oped/whats-the-big-deal-listeria-cantaloupe-has-only-killed-a-dozen-or-so—and-they-were-old-anyway/#comments
    I wish you the best in your operation. I would hope you would post the name of your farm so consumers can decide if your attitude about consumers makes your farm a place they would like to shop.
    Me, I’ll take a pass.

  • Linda Machmueller

    “Organicfarmer”,
    You have had undeniable tragedies in your life. That said, the statement that no one leaves earth, “before your number is pulled”, is neither fact nor fiction… and this case irrelevant.
    If you have the lives of other people in your hands…then be the interventional help that you received in your suicide attempts and understand that by producing food you are in fact attempting to earn the trust of those consumers that buy it. And it can’t help remind me of a Doctor’s oath: “first do no harm”. You have been lucky and I’ve no doubt that you do do your best to grow and distribute uncontaminated food.
    But your attitude about what you and your family went through should actually drive you to care about other people who don’t want to go through what you did. That’s a good and humane farmer. The dead people are old so, so what if they die. I’m thinking your written manifesto is more about your mental state than your farming. BTW, you should indeed have the hell scared out of you by Bill Marler. You haven’t done your research on this man, I’m guessing. He protects people that are victims of foodborne illnesses for a reason that comes from his heart. People in Public Health Systems all over the country know this man. You may want to check him out before, again, using far too many irrelevant personal life stories to say he and others are out to get you.
    Therapy may be something to check out, as well.