Courtesy Food and Drug AdministrationOfficials with distributor Frontera Produce Ltd. of Edinburg, Texas, said they began working with Jensen Farms Sept. 12 on a voluntary recall of cantaloupe possibly linked to a listeria outbreak (UPDATED COVERAGE, Sept. 15, 6:40 p.m.) Cantaloupes shipped by a grower in Colorado’s Rocky Ford region have been linked to a deadly listeria outbreak in Colorado, New Mexico and 15 other states.
Granada, Colo.-based Jensen Farms issued a voluntary recall of its cantaloupes Sept. 14.
However, company officials with the distributor, Frontera Produce, Edinburg, Texas, said voluntary recall efforts began Sept. 12.
“As soon as the Colorado officials narrowed it down to the Rocky Ford region, we immediately initiated voluntary recall measures,” Frontera executive vice president Amy Gates said Sept. 15. “We shut down operations on Monday (Sept. 12). We stopped harvest, packing and distribution. We called our customers and told them if they had trucks on the road to call them back."
Gates said Frontera and Jensen Farms are cooperating with the Food and Drug Administration and Colorado officials to investigate the situation and notify retail customers and consumers.
Retailers including Safeway, Whole Foods and King Soopers voluntarily pulled Rocky Ford cantaloupes off shelves in many markets. Some Colorado retailers began pulling Rocky Ford product as early Sept. 9 or Sept. 10, said Gary Shane, co-onwer of Gary Shane Farms, La Junta, Colo. Courtesy FDAThe recalled cantaloupe were distributed in 17 states and carried this label.
Eleven cases of listeria in Colorado, 10 in New Mexico, two in Texas and one each in Indiana, Nebraska and Oklahoma have been linked to contaminated cantaloupes, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the New Mexico Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nine people sickened by listeria in Colorado reported eating cantaloupe. All nine were hospitalized and one died, according to the Colorado department. A second death was reported, but has not been linked to the nine confirmed cases.
Nine of the 10 people stricken in New Mexico reported eating cantaloupe. Four were hospitalized and three died.
Gary Shane Farms was inspected Sept. 9 and given a clean bill of health Sept. 13, Shane said. The company took back some product from retailers before Sept. 13, but recalls came at the very end of its deal, Shane said. Only two of the roughly 125 loads Gary Shane Farms shipped this summer were recalled, Shane said.
Most other Rocky Ford shippers also are done shipping for the season, Shane said Sept. 15.
Because Rocky Ford was at the end of its deal, and because the region’s shipments rarely extend beyond the center of the country, the effect of the recall on volumes and markets will likely be minimal, said Jim Malanca, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Westside Produce Co., Firebaugh, Calif.
But Malanca said he fielded plenty of calls from worried retailers the week of Sept. 12. Even though news accounts made clear that the contaminated melons came from one region only, the entire category could feel the effects.
Staff writer Coral Beach contributed to this report.