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Contaminated Cantaloupes Gone – Consequences Linger On

It has been more than one month since Jensen Farms recalled its cantaloupes from the marketplace. By now, any melon that was not eaten, discarded or returned to the store should be “spoiled” beyond edibility. But this doesn’t mean that the public – and public health officials – can let down their guard.

CDC routinely updates the illness and death toll racked up by Listeria monocytogenes – 116 ill, 23 dead, one stillborn, as of October 12th. After a while, however, the numbers lose their ability to shock. It’s the individual tragedies that catch our attention.

Missy had this to say last week:

My granddaughter was stillborn this past Sunday (Oct 9th) in Ohio. Cultures showed mass amounts of Listeria in the placenta. Walmart is saying their cantaloupes did not come from this farm. Any chance that isn’t true? Trying to figure out what happened!

As of last Friday (October 14th), the mother of this stillborn baby girl was still in hospital on IV antibiotics.

The suffering that goes hand in glove with an outbreak of listeriosis has not let up – and it will continue for some time to come. Missy is not the only one who is trying to figure out what happened.

While consumers ask repeatedly in which stores the recalled cantaloupes were sold, the FDA, Jensen Farms, Walmart and Whole Foods Market remain silent.

While pregnant women wonder whether they were served Jensen Farms cantaloupe at their favorite restaurant or salad bar, the FDA and Jensen Farms remain silent.

While cantaloupe growers in Arizona and California watch the demand for their melons shrivel, the FDA continues its “root cause” investigation into Jensen Farms’ practices – and hasn’t released any new information since September 30th.

I have said this again and again. Consumers should not have to play detective in order to find out whether or not they have been exposed to the risk of infection from a recalled food. They should not have to rely on blogs like eFoodAlert for information on where a recalled food was sold.

Let me spell this out one more time.

USDA publishes retail distribution lists for all Class I (highest risk category) recalls within seven days of the recall.

California – a state that is struggling with huge budget deficits – publishes retail distribution lists, including for restaurants.

FDA, when asked directly where the recalled Jensen Farms cantaloupes were sold, replied that consumers should “ask their retailer.”

When is FDA going to wake up, put the health and safety of American consumers ahead of industry interests, and provide us all with timely and complete information?


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“Contaminated Cantaloupes Gone – Consequences Linger On” was first posted by Phyllis Entis on her blog, eFoodAlert, on Oct. 17, 2011. Reposted with permission.


© Food Safety News
  • http://www.healthyfoodcoalition.org hhamil

    I completely support Ms. Entis’ contention that the FDA has a moral, ethical and legal obligation to publish retail distribution lists in cases like Jensen Farms, as does, I have no doubt, EVERY cantaloupe grower, packer, processor and distributor NOT directly involved in the recall does.
    Her contention that the failure to publish retail distribution lists is because the FDA is putting “industry interests” ahead of “the health and safety of American consumers” makes no sense.
    How does any cantaloupe grower, packer, processor or distributor other than those who were processing or distributing Jensen Farms’ cantaloupes benefit? They don’t! Rather, just as occurred with spinach in 2006 and tomatoes in 2008, the cantaloupe “industry” is being devastated by the incompetence of the FDA.
    The injury being done to all of the other growers, packers, processors and distributors has been well documented by large mainstream media (see the AP’s “Listeria outbreak devastates Calif. cantaloupes” (http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/nation/listeria-outbreak-devastates-calif-cantaloupes-1912976.html?viewAsSinglePage=true). Millions of dollars of cantaloupes are being wasted and thousands of people working in agriculture are having their income reduced—-some, catastrophically.
    Ms. Entis’ lumping them in with the phrase “industry interests” injures them further. It also reduces the chance of us forcing the FDA to do its job.
    And I have a question for all those (like Bill Marler) who wax on about how wonderful FDA Deputy Commissioner of Foods, Mike Taylor is: What’s your hero done about this? You praise his courage in naming E. coli O157:H7 an adulterant without the required rulemaking; whereas, this is clearly within his authority and requires no rulemaking. When are we going to read a “Publisher’s Platform” or “Letter from the Editor” decrying his failure to do his job.

  • http://www.healthyfoodcoalition.org Harry Hamil

    I completely support Ms. Entis’ contention that the FDA has a moral, ethical and legal obligation to publish retail distribution lists in cases like Jensen Farms, as does, I have no doubt, EVERY cantaloupe grower, packer, processor and distributor NOT directly involved in the recall does.
    Her contention that the failure to publish retail distribution lists is because the FDA is putting “industry interests” ahead of “the health and safety of American consumers” makes no sense.
    How does any cantaloupe grower, packer, processor or distributor other than those who were processing or distributing Jensen Farms’ cantaloupes benefit? They don’t! Rather, just as occurred with spinach in 2006 and tomatoes in 2008, the cantaloupe “industry” is being devastated by the incompetence of the FDA.
    The injury being done to all of the other growers, packers, processors and distributors has been well documented by large mainstream media (see the AP’s “Listeria outbreak devastates Calif. cantaloupes” (http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/nation/listeria-outbreak-devastates-calif-cantaloupes-1912976.html?viewAsSinglePage=true). Millions of dollars of cantaloupes are being wasted and thousands of people working in agriculture are having their income reduced—-some, catastrophically.
    Ms. Entis’ lumping them in with the phrase “industry interests” injures them further. It also reduces the chance of us forcing the FDA to do its job.
    And I have a question for all those (like Bill Marler) who wax on about how wonderful FDA Deputy Commissioner of Foods, Mike Taylor is: What’s your hero done about this? You praise his courage in naming E. coli O157:H7 an adulterant without the required rulemaking; whereas, this is clearly within his authority and requires no rulemaking. When are we going to read a “Publisher’s Platform” or “Letter from the Editor” decrying his failure to do his job.