Death Toll of Multi-state Listeriosis Outbreak Caused by Contaminated Cantaloupes Reaches 16

By Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari on September 29, 2011

This month’s cantaloupe listeria outbreak is the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in over a decade, according to nj.com. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that 72 illnesses and 13 deaths in 18 states, with three more deaths under investigation, may have been caused by the contaminated fruit.

Listeria is more lethal than other more common foodborne pathogens, such as E. coli and salmonella, although those outbreaks tend to cause illnesses in more people. Those at highest risk for listeria illness include the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women.

Listeria can grow at both room and refrigerator temperatures, unlike many other pathogens. Historically, listeria outbreaks are more common in soft cheeses and deli meat, making the cantaloupe listeria outbreak unusual.

The current listeria outbreak may be linked to Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado. The company recalled the contaminated cantaloupes on September 14, 2011, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Colorado health officials discovered listeria in cantaloupes from grocery stores as well as from a victim’s home. Officials found matching strains of the disease on cantaloupe samples and equipment at the Jensen Farms Granada, Colorado packing facility. The FDA is still investigating the cause of the contamination.

The contaminated cantaloupes may have been shipped to California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, and New York from July 29 through September 10, 2011. They may or may not be labeled with stickers saying “Sweet Rocky Fords,” “Distributed by Frontera Produce,” “Jensenfarms.com,” or “Colorado Grown.”

Companies that produce and distribute food products must follow proper guidelines, standards and procedures to ensure that the general public is not exposed to disease or toxins. If their food is contaminated, they may be held liable for the resulting illness and death.

At Blume Forte, our knowledgeable New Jersey contaminated food lawyers can help you pursue compensation for your losses surrounding food borne illnesses. To discuss your potential claim, contact us for a no-cost consultation at (973) 635-5400.

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