Thursday, September 29, 2011

Update on Listeria contamination of cantaloupes

There are currently 72 illnesses and 13 deaths reported to be linked to the Listeria contamination of Jensen Farms Cantaloupes.  This product has been shipped to at least 22 states.
·        Scientists are still searching to determine how the Cantaloupes became contaminated.
·        Because of the complexity of the supply chain, that is selling and reselling of produce, government officials found the designated cantaloupes in more states than previously reported.
·        In addition to concerns on the cantaloupes themselves, consumers are also advised to clean and disinfect refrigerators and other food contact surfaces.   Being that Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures, contaminated melons can lead to Listeria contamination of other foods stored in the refrigerator or other surfaces that contacted the melons.
·        Listeria is particularly harmful to high risk populations (elderly, young, and pregnant women).  It infects white blood cells and leads to septicemia (blood infection), meningitis, and abortion.  Because of the high mortality rate, it is important for consumers to take appropriate precautions.
·        Incubation times can range from 1 to 3 weeks or longer, so there is the potential for additional illnesses.  Cantaloupes have a short shelf-life, approximately two weeks.

Consumer Safety Information on the Recalled Whole Cantaloupes by Jensen Farms

FDA Release Updated September 28, 2011

FDA and its state partners are conducting checks at retail stores, wholesalers and distributors to make sure they have received notification about the Jensen Farms’ whole cantaloupe recall and that they have taken appropriate action to notify their customers and remove the recalled whole cantaloupes from the shelves.

Because some of the wholesalers and distributors may have further distributed the recalled cantaloupes to food processers, it is possible that additional products that contain cantaloupe from Jensen Farms could be recalled. There is no indication of foreign distribution at this time. Should FDA discover any information that contaminated cantaloupe is still in the marketplace, the Agency will work with the necessary parties to facilitate voluntary recalls of the product and take the necessary steps to protect the safety of the public’s health.

Listeria can grow at refrigerator temperatures, about 40 Fahrenheit (4 Celsius). The longer ready-to-eat refrigerated foods are stored in the refrigerator, the more opportunity Listeria has to grow.

It is very important that consumers clean their refrigerators and other food preparation surfaces. Consumers should follow these simple steps:

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
  • Wipe up spills in the refrigerator immediately and clean the refrigerator regularly.
  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitization process.

The FDA advises consumers not to eat the recalled cantaloupes and to throw them away. Do not try to wash the harmful bacteria off the cantaloupe as contamination may be both on the inside and outside of the cantaloupe. Cutting, slicing and dicing may also transfer harmful bacteria from the fruit’s surface to the fruit’s flesh.

Listeriosis is rare but can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups. These groups include older adults, people with compromised immune systems and unborn babies and newborns. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and serious illness or death in newborn babies, though the mother herself rarely becomes seriously ill. A person with listeriosis usually has fever and muscle aches. Persons who think they might have become ill should consult their doctor.

Jensen Farms voluntarily recalled1 its whole cantaloupes on Sept. 14 in response to the multi-state outbreak of listeriosis. Cantaloupes from other farms have not been linked to this outbreak.

The recalled cantaloupes were shipped from July 29 through September 10, 2011 to the following states: Arizona, Arkansas, 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. There is no indication of foreign distribution at this time.

For more information on the epidemiologic investigation, please refer to CDC’s Investigation on the Multi-State Listeriosis Outbreak2.

The FDA is conducting a root-cause investigation, which includes an environmental assessment, into the multi-state outbreak of listeriosis linked to the recalled whole cantaloupes by Jensen Farms. The FDA is working with its partners, including the State of Colorado, to determine how these recalled whole cantaloupes became contaminated with Listeria.

These types of investigations, in most cases, lead to preventive practices. When the FDA has new information in its investigation, the Agency will share its findings with consumers, industry and other federal, state and local health and regulatory agencies.

Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Whole Cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, Colorado

CDC Release

Today's Highlights, September 27, 2011

·        As of 11am EDT on September 26, 2011, a total of 72 persons infected with the four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported to CDC from 18 states. All illnesses started on or after July 31, 2011. The number of infected persons identified in each state is as follows: California (1), Colorado (15), Florida (1), Illinois (1), Indiana (2), Kansas (5), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), Montana (1), Nebraska (6), New Mexico (10), North Dakota (1), Oklahoma (8), Texas (14), Virginia (1), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (1).

·        Thirteen deaths have been reported: 2 in Colorado, 1 in Kansas, 1 in Maryland, 1 in Missouri, 1 in Nebraska, 4 in New Mexico, 1 in Oklahoma, and 2 in Texas.

·        Collaborative investigations by local, state, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate the source of the outbreak is whole cantaloupe grown at Jensen Farms’ production fields in Granada, Colorado.

·        On September 14, 2011, FDA issued a press release to announce that Jensen Farms issued a voluntary recall of its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes after being linked to a multistate outbreak of listeriosis.

·        CDC recommends that persons at high risk for listeriosis, including older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women, do not eat Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms.

·        Other consumers who want to reduce their risk of Listeria infection should not eat Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms.

·        Even if some of the cantaloupe has been eaten without becoming ill, dispose of the rest of the cantaloupe immediately. Listeria bacteria can grow in the cantaloupe at room and refrigerator temperatures.

·        Cantaloupes that are known to NOT have come from Jensen Farms are safe to eat. If consumers are uncertain about the source of a cantaloupe for purchase, they should ask the grocery store. A cantaloupe purchased from an unknown source should be discarded: "when in doubt, throw it out."

·        Go to September 27, 2011 for a full report.

·        More information about listeriosis and recommendations to reduce the risk of getting listeriosis from food are available at CDC’s Listeriosis webpage.

·        For more information on food outbreaks, please visit CDC’s Multistate Foodborne Outbreaks page.


Deadly Cantaloupes Have Colorado Scientists Searching for Clues

September 29, 2011, 12:23 AM EDT

Everything (almost) you might want to know about the listeria outbreak

September 28, 2011 4:42 PM

The Gazette

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