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Listeria-Tainted Cantaloupes Sent to Five Additional States

Date Published: Friday, September 23rd, 2011 Listeria outbreak linked to Colorado cantaloupes continues to grow. Yesterday, we wrote that the death toll had, sadly, doubled to 8 people. Today, it turns out that the total number of states involved is actually 22, five more than was previously reported.

According to the most current reports, said Reuters, 55 people in 10 states have fallen ill, with most sickened in Colorado, where the cantaloupes were grown and harvested, citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Not all 22 states have reported illnesses, said Reuters.

As we’ve written, 300,000 cases of whole cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms were shipped between July 29th and September 10th, 2011 to Illinois, Wyoming, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The additional five states now included are Arkansas, California, Idaho, Ohio, and Oklahoma, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This is considered the deadliest food borne illness outbreak in the U.S. since 9 people died in 2008 and 2009 due to Salmonella infections, said CDC spokeswoman, Lola Russell, noted Reuters. Russell pointed out that she wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers continue to increase. “We could see more because it can be in a person’s system for up to two months before it presents itself,” Russell told Reuters.

Local, state, and federal health experts are investigating the growing outbreak that has been linked to Rocky Ford-region brand whole cantaloupe supplied by Jensen Farms of Holly, Colorado.

Jensen Farms issued a recall on September 14th followed by a statement from spokeswoman Amy Philpott confirming the presence of Listeria in one of its Rocky Ford cantaloupes. Jensen Farms recently posted an online apology for its part in the deadly outbreak.

Testing has since confirmed that four Listeria strains have been linked to those who have fallen ill and who consumed the potentially contaminated cantaloupes, said MSNBC recently.

The CDC confirmed that illnesses have been reported in Colorado (14), New Mexico (10), Texas (9), Oklahoma (8), Nebraska (4), Wisconsin (2), as well as one each in California, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming, said MSNBC. Deaths have been confirmed in Colorado (2), Maryland (1), New Mexico (4), and Oklahoma (1), said federal officials. Deaths have been reported in Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

As we’ve mentioned, the Listeria outbreak has led to at least one lawsuit; more are expected. Tammy and Charles Palmer allege the cantaloupe Charles (71) ate tested positive for Listeria, said The New York Daily News. Palmer became ill two weeks ago—two weeks after consuming the fruit—and was rushed to the hospital paralyzed and unable to speak, according to ABC News. Charles remains hospitalized on a strong antibiotic regimen. “The doctors told me it was Listeria. The health department told me that it was the cantaloupe,” Tammy told 7News.