Seven-state Listeria outbreak prompts cantaloupe recall

Sep 15, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – A Colorado farm in the state's Rocky Ford growing area recalled its cantaloupe yesterday after a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) linked a multistate Listeria monocytogenes outbreak to its produce.

The FDA traced confirmed Listeria outbreak cases to Jensen Farms, based in Holly.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases in the outbreak has grown to 22, an increase of 6, with two more states affected, raising that total to seven, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said yesterday.

The CDC also revealed that cantaloupe from grocery stores and a sick patient's home that yielded Listeria in tests conducted by Colorado lab officials originated from Jensen Farms.

Jensen Farms said in its recall notice that the cantaloupes suspected of contamination were shipped between Jul 29 and Sep 10 to 17 states: Wyoming, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

A separate FDA warning to consumers yesterday said the cantaloupes were distributed to at least 17 states, with possible further distribution. It said not all the affected products have a sticker and that cartons carry the Frontera Produce label stating that the products are grown and packed by Jensen Farms in Granada, Colo., and shipped by Frontera Produce Ltd, of Edinburg, Tex.

The CDC has said state and local health departments are working to determine if Listeria infections in several other states have links to the multistate outbreak.

The FDA said the event is the first Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupes and that its newly formed Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network is working with federal and state partners to investigate the supply chain and explore how the cantaloupes became contaminated.

The whole cantaloupes have a green-and-white sticker that reads: Product of USA- Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford-Cantaloupe or a gray, yellow, and green sticker that reads: Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords, the company said in the recall notice. It asked consumers with unlabeled cantaloupes to ask retail stores about the source and to destroy any products that came from Jensen Farms.

Jensen Farms said it was prudent to recall the products, given health officials' warnings that people at high risk for Listeria complications should avoid eating cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford growing region.

Ryan Jensen, a partner at Jensen Farms, said in the recall notice that the company remains committed to high food safety standards and routinely received third-party safety audits. "We continually look for ways to enhance our protocol."

The 6 new Listeria cases in yesterday's CDC update include 4 from New Mexico, 1 from West Virginia, and 1 more from Colorado. Earlier this week New Mexico reported nine Listeria cases, including three deaths, that it said might be linked to the outbreak.

One more death, that of a patient from New Mexico, was included in the CDC's update, raising the total to two. It also revealed that the first fatality it announced was a patient from Colorado.

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDH) said yesterday that it has received one more report of a patient hospitalized with listeriosis, raising the state's number of suspected outbreak cases to 10. It said the CDC has confirmed that its first four cases are part of the multistate outbreak and that tests on the others are still pending.

New Mexico's Environmental Health Bureau has identified two distributors of Jensen Farms cantaloupes in the state, Basila Produce in Albuquerque and Wal-Mart Distribution in Los Lunas.

State inspectors found cantaloupe that is subject to the recall in several Wal-Mart and Whole Foods markets, which are removing them from store shelves and taking extra precautions to dispose of the products, according to an NMDH release. The state issued a recall notice asking retailers to pull any cantaloupes from the Rocky Ford growing region.

See also:

Sep 14 FDA recall notice

Sep 14 FDA alert

Sep 14 NMDH press release

Sep 14 CIDRAP News story "FDA unveils foodborne illness outbreak response network"

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