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Publisher’s Platform: Cantaloupe, One Year Later

Victims of the 2011 Jensen Farms Listeria cantaloupe outbreak wonder how another outbreak traced to melons could have happened.

A year after 147 people were sickened, and perhaps 37 died, from Listeria-tainted cantaloupe, came Friday’s announcement from the CDC and FDA that a total of 141 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 20 states.  The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (7), Arkansas (3), California (2), Georgia (1), Illinois (17), Indiana (13), Iowa (7), Kentucky (50), Michigan (6), Minnesota (3), Missouri (9), Mississippi (2), New Jersey (1), North Carolina (3), Ohio (3), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (6), Texas (1), and Wisconsin (2).  31 persons have been hospitalized, and two deaths have been reported in Kentucky.

In the course of their investigation, state officials in Kentucky and Indiana found evidence that they believe indicate cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana may be a source of the ongoing Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak.  However, the farm and the retail outlets where the cantaloupes were sold have as yet been unnamed.

Not surprisingly I received a few emails from clients that I represent from last year’s cantaloupe debacle.  Here is one:

I can’t believe that as we near the anniversary of my mother’s death from eating Listeria contaminated cantaloupe that we are looking again at illnesses and deaths from cantaloupe.  And, this is coming on the heels of another widespread cantaloupe recall from Listeria that is still ongoing.  Has nothing been learned?  Is anyone listening?  Are more deaths to be accepted as business as usual?

Congress has its head so deep in the sand of denial that they can’t hear our voices warning them.  So I understand now, more than ever, the need for louder noise on the part of the informed to drag our government leaders out and make them hear what’s at stake.  Americans shouldn’t have to lose a family member to foodborne illness to become aware of or understand the importance of this issue.

The loss of 37 lives last year due to Jensen Farm’s negligence, in the largest foodborne death toll in a hundred years, is the tip of the possible iceberg should a huge farm with wider distribution make similar mistakes and flood our nations markets with deadly produce on an even larger scale.

Here is another:

I feel like I have been kicked in the stomach. My heart goes out to the families and the victims of this latest cantaloupe food borne illness. California and Colorado have strengthened their food safety standards especially for cantaloupe. The problem still exists for the ‘bad actors’ in the industry.

My dad, a WWII Purple Heart winner, died from eating Listeria-tainted cantaloupe last year.  Have we learned nothing?  This September the families of the Jensen Farms Listeria outbreak are observing a 1-year anniversary.  This will not be a joyous time.

And, one more:

Last year, as my mom lay dying of listeria from a Jensen Farms cantaloupe, she prayed that it would never happen to anyone else.  She was not normally a litigious person, but joined the lawsuit against Jensen Farms to help effect change.

You can’t imagine how my heart ached when I read that there is now a salmonella outbreak from cantaloupe!  Then I got the below email from the attorney representing my mom and over 40 others.  My heart still aches, but now it is also filled with anger from what our government isn’t doing to protect us!

And, it is not like government and the industry – growers, shippers and retailers – have not had ample warning:

cantaloupe-outbreaks.jpgThe question is what will next year bring?

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