Rocky Ford cantaloupes: Caught in the crossfire

09/18/2011 11:11:00 PM
Tom Karst

Checking in at 11:21 p.m. Sunday night, I see that "Rocky Ford" cantaloupes are getting a fair amount of attention tonight.  Here is a sampling...

For what its worth, Bill Marler writes this in a Sunday evening email about the outbreak:

As of last week the CDC listed a total of 22 persons infected with the outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 7 states. The number of infected persons identified in each state is as follows: Colorado (12), Indiana (1), Nebraska (1), New Mexico (4), Oklahoma(1), Texas (2), and West Virginia (1). Two deaths have been reported, one in Colorado and one in New Mexico.  In reviewing State Health Department websites and media this weekend, I have come up with the following number is sick or dead likely related to Jensen and Frontera Listeria-tainted cantaloupes. The states below were noted by the FDA as receiving cantaloupes unless noted.

Arizona – No reported illnesses.

Colorado (12 sick with 1 death) - A total of 12 cases in Colorado are linked to the outbreak, including one death.

Indiana (1 sick) – One ill according to the CDC.  State not listed as receiving Jensen Cantaloupes.

Illinois (1 sick) – Listeriosis illnesses in several other states –including Cook County in Illinois—are currently being investigated by state and local health departments to determine if these illnesses are part of this outbreak.

Kansas (6 possibly sick) - Kansas has had six cases of listeriosis reported since August 26. None of these cases has been definitively linked to the multistate outbreak, but investigations are underway and additional laboratory testing is pending.

Missouri (2 sick with 1 death) – According to press reports, The Springfield-Greene County Health Department continues to reach out for a possible connection to contaminated cantaloupes in Colorado.  One of the listeria cases in Springfield was fatal. The other person was still in the hospital this weekend.

 

Montana (2 sick) - Department of the Public Health and Human Services officials have identified two cases of listeriosis in Montana residents who reside in two different Montana counties, Gallatin and Yellowstone.

 Nebraska (3 sick) - In the past two weeks, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Office of Epidemiology has received three reports of listeriosis (two in Douglas County and one in Custer County).  Of the two with known hospitalization history, both were hospitalized. PFGE (DNA fingerprinting) has completed on one isolate. It matches isolates from two other states. The investigation in this cluster so far is finding a strong association with cantaloupe.

 New Mexico (10 sick with 4 deaths) - To date, the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) has identified ten patients hospitalized with Listeria infection in the last 3 weeks, including 4 fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed by DNA fingerprinting tests that the first five New Mexico cases are part of the multi-state Listeriosis outbreak linked to cantaloupes from the Rocky Ford region of Colorado. Test results on the other cases are pending.

 Oklahoma (10 sick with 1 death) - One case has been identified as associated with this outbreak.  Six other recently reported cases of listeriosis among Oklahomans are under investigation to determine if they are related to the outbreak.  Per news reports - The Oklahoma Department of Health confirms the death of one person from an outbreak of Listeria traced to cantaloupe.  The Health Department says there have been six cases in the state related to cantaloupe shipped by Jensen Farms. All six people were hospitalized and one person died. An additional four cases are being investigated.

 

Texas (2 sick) - Two people from Texas have become ill after consuming Rocky Ford cantaloupe.

 

West Virginia (1 sick) – One ill.  State not listed as receiving Jensen Cantaloupes

 

Wyoming (1 sick) – According to press reports, Wyoming state health officials say a Laramie County man has fallen ill with a case of listeriosis believed to be related to contaminated cantaloupes from Colorado.


TK:More headlines on the outbreak...


The Packer: Jensen Farms, Frontera cooperate in cantaloupe recall

 

FDA recall release


CDC page: Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Rocky Ford Cantaloupes from Jensen Farms

From Medical Daily: Listeria Outbreak in Cantaloupes is Extraordinary: Experts Jim Gorny quoted in this piece about the unusual appearance of listeria on cantaloupe

From Washington Post: Colorado farmers worry that Listeria outbreak has ruined prime selling season   As usual, innocent farmers get caught in crossfire.. From the story:


Bartolo said the “Rocky Ford cantaloupes” name has no legal protection, such as the strict legal definition of a Vidalia onion, to prevent farmers outside the region from using the name. In fact, he said, Rocky Ford was a major melon-seed producer from the 1900s to 1940s, selling melon seeds nationwide under the name “Rocky Ford” or “Rocky Sweets,” so there may be cantaloupes from far away sold under the name.

Colorado Chief Medical Officer Chris Urbina said he understands the anger of other farmers who feel tarnished by the outbreak. However, health officials had to act on what they knew at the time — and the victims had reported eating cantaloupe from Rocky Ford, he said.

 

From the Colorado Springs Gazette: Rocky Ford takes brunt of listeria scare: 'It wasn't our product'   From the story:


In most years, consumers swoon over the super-sweet Rocky Ford melons, snapping them up at farmers markets, roadside stands and grocery stores. But this year, a listeria outbreak has put a chill on the hot commodity, and even though the source of contamination was traced to cantaloupes grown on a farm near the Colorado-Kansas border two counties away, farmers in and around the town of Rocky Ford  say they’ve been hurt by reports that “their” cantaloupes are the culprit.

Jensen Farms spokeswoman Amy Philpott said Thursday that one of the Colorado farm's Rocky Ford cantaloupes tested positive for the bacteria, but more tests are needed to determine if it's the same strain linked to the outbreak. The farm provides about 40 percent of the area's cantaloupes, Philpott said.

An ABC TV  news report here.

 

TK: Federal authorities need to have answers as to how this happened. Failure in that mission does no good for establishing preventive controls or restoring public confidence in FDA's food safety oversight.



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Bill Marler    
www.marlerblog.com  |  September, 19, 2011 at 08:50 AM

"for what it is worth". Well Tom, you could have done the research. FYI, you forgot the introduction: Seven deaths among as many as 49 illnesses are being investigated and may be linked to Listeria-tainted cantaloupes traced to Jensen Farms in Holly, CO, according to a review of state health department websites and media reports this weekend. Perhaps you can explain to your readers the use of the "for that it is worth comment."

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