Cantaloupe at first blush seems to be a pretty benign fruit. Although a bit ugly on the outside, the inside is a favorite to both young and old – those most vulnerable to foodborne illness. Cantaloupe seems to pop up everywhere – on the side of your plate for breakfast or on platters from wedding to wakes.
Friday afternoon the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified nine cases (including one death) in Colorado linked to cantaloupe (my best guess is cut, not whole) to a multistate Listeria outbreak. There are two other potentially related cases in Texas and one in Nebraska (more from CDC on Monday).
A few months ago the CDC, and 10 state epidemiologists, linked 20 ill people infected with Salmonella Panama from Arizona (1), California (2), Colorado (1), Maryland (1), Montana (1), Nevada (1), Oregon (6), Pennsylvania (1), Utah (1) and Washington (5) to Del Monte imported cantaloupe.
Del Monte, of course, has become infamous for suing the FDA to lift the import ban on its cantaloupe by claiming that it was not its cantaloupe that sickened Costco customers – that FDA, CDC and 10 states botched the investigation. Del Monte has also been threatening some type of legal action against the state of Oregon and its senior epidemiologist, Bill Keene, for apparently leading the public health charge.
By the way, would it not be deliciously ironic if this recent problem was caused by Del Monte cantaloupe? On the other hand, given that some Del Monte cantaloupe has been banned from import, perhaps the FDA did Del Monte a favor.
Courtesy of outbreak database, here are a few other cantaloupe outbreaks in the last decade:
16. Cantaloupes 2000
There have been more than just a few severe illnesses and deaths. Perhaps it is time to rethink our affair with cantaloupe and push it to the side of the plate.