Victims of the ongoing Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe are calling on lawmakers to launch an investigation into the epidemic, which has now killed at least 21 people and sickened 109 in 23 states.
In a letter to Congress Friday, 21 patients and family members of patients who have died asked that the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations conduct investigations and a hearing on what has become the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in more than 10 years.
These signatories joined the ranking member of the Subcommittee, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-CO, and Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-CA, in urging the Subcommittee to look into the source of the outbreak as well as how authorities and industry have responded to the crisis.
The representatives outlined their requests in a letter to the chairmen of their respective committees Monday.
While experts have traced the dangerous bacteria back to cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms in Colorado, many questions remain – including how the cantaloupes became contaminated and where the melons were distributed.
While many stores have recalled the Jensen Farms cantaloupes, health officials have not been able to track down all retail locations that ended up with the contaminated product.
Those who have been affected by the outbreak hope that a Congressional investigation will answer questions about distribution and origin of the bacteria, and help determine how the cantaloupe industry can avoid similar outbreaks in the future.
“Like victims of prior foodborne illness outbreaks traced to foods such as spinach, peanuts and eggs, we seek answers to this tragedy,” they wrote.
In their letter, the families point out that the outbreak is continuing to take its toll, and will likely become even more devastating.
“With the number of Listeria outbreak victims increasing weekly, you can be certain that more families will join our ranks before this outbreak is finally over.”