Karst chat with Dave Gombas: on harmonized standards and the puzzling case of listeria on cantaloupe

09/22/2011 03:33:00 PM
Tom Karst

11:34 a.m. Karst: Would the listeria be in the soils?

11:35 a.m. Gombas: One of the primary sources of listeria in the food supply is fresh produce. It grows out in the fields naturally, but it doesn’t grow to a level that causes illness. What in the world went wrong here that got it to grow at high  levels, not just to high levels, but high enough levels on a cantaloupe that after it was prepared and eaten, it was still at enough of a dose to cause this number of illnesses. Unlike salmonella and E. Coli, you need a large dose of listeria to cause illness and that is not reasonable that would have occurred on cantaloupe.

11:36 a.m. Karst: So it is an organism that does grow in the field, but you wouldn’t expect it to be a problem?

11:37 a.m. Gombas: That’s right. The outbreaks associated with the fresh produce - three in 30 years - and they are looking or this stuff. Listeriosis is a deadly disease. If you get sick, one of four people die. It is a very serious disease and typically listeriosis has been linked to processing plants. It has been able to grow in the processing plant and contaminate some ready to eat food. It is not associated with field contamination.

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