CDC: 25 dead from tainted cantaloupes

Oct. 19, 2011 at 9:49 AM
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ATLANTA, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Twenty-five people died and 123 were confirmed infected with Listeria monocytogenes traced to tainted cantaloupes, U.S. health officials reported.

In addition, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said one woman pregnant at the time of illness had a miscarriage after eating whole or pre-cut Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Colorado. Older adults, persons with weakened immune systems and pregnant women are most at risk from eating the tainted fruit.

Pennsylvania reported its first case of Listeria tied to the cantaloupes.

"Even if some of the cantaloupe has been eaten without becoming ill, dispose of the rest of the cantaloupe immediately. Listeria bacteria can grow in the cantaloupe at room and refrigerator temperatures," CDC officials said in a statement.

"Cantaloupes that are known to not have come from Jensen Farms are safe to eat, but if consumers are uncertain about the source of a cantaloupe for purchase, they should ask the grocery store. A cantaloupe purchased from an unknown source should be discarded: 'When in doubt, throw it out.'"

Listeria illnesses began on or after July 31 in people ages under with a median age of age 78, with most sickened persons age 60 and older and 98 percent were hospitalized. Fifty-eight percent of ill persons are female. Four of the illnesses were related to a pregnancy; one was diagnosed in a newborn and three were diagnosed in pregnant women, with one miscarriage reported, the CDC said.

"Although Jensen Farms issued a voluntary recall of Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes on Sept. 14 and the recalled cantaloupe should be off store shelves, more ill persons may be reported because of the time lag between diagnosis and laboratory confirmation and also because up to two months can elapse between eating contaminated food and developing listeriosis," the CDC said.

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