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Second Listeriosis Death From Contaminated Cantaloupes

Outbreak Traced to Colorado Farm; 2 Dead, 20 Hospitalized in 7 States
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 15, 2011 -- A second person has died of listeriosis as the outbreak from contaminated cantaloupes has spread to seven states.

Including the two deaths, 22 people have been sickened. 

The CDC, FDA, and Colorado health authorities have traced the outbreak to Jensen Farms of Holly, Colo. It is not yet clear whether other farms in the Rocky Ford growing region are involved. The state of Colorado has warned people to avoid cantaloupes from the entire region.

The cantaloupes were recently harvested and widely distributed in the U.S. They may still be available in grocery stores.

Jensen Farms has recalled their cantaloupes. According to the recall notice, the whole cantaloupes were shipped between July 29 and Sept. 10 to 17 states: 

  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

The whole cantaloupes may have either of two stickers:

  • A green and white sticker that reads: Product of USA -- Frontera Produce -- Colorado Fresh -- Rocky Ford Cantaloupe
  • A gray, yellow, and green sticker that reads: Jensen Farms -- Sweet Rocky Fords

If you encounter unlabeled cantaloupes, you should ask your grocer where it came from.

If you have one of the recalled cantaloupes, be sure to dispose of it in a closed plastic bag in a sealed trash can to prevent people or animals from eating them.

If you've eaten some of a recalled cantaloupe and have not become sick, do not assume the cantaloupe is safe. Dispose of it immediately.

The two deaths linked to the outbreak strain of Listeria were in Colorado and New Mexico. Twelve cases have been reported in Colorado, one in Indiana, one in Nebraska, four in New Mexico, one in Oklahoma, two in Texas, and one in West Virginia.

However, several other states are investigating suspicious cases of Listeria food poisoning that may be linked to the outbreak.

Cases reported so far range in age from 38 to 96 years. Most of those sickened in the outbreak are over 60 years old.

Listeriosis Symptoms

Although listeriosis is a food-borne illness, symptomatic disease usually means the bacteria have escaped the digestive tract and are spreading throughout the body. Listeriosis sometimes results in fatal meningitis or encephalitis. Of the estimated 1,600 U.S. cases of listeriosis each year, there are 260 deaths.

Listeriosis usually begins with diarrhea or other intestinal symptoms. Patients soon develop fever and muscle aches. What happens next depends on a person's risk factors:

  • While pregnant women usually get a mild flu-like illness, Listeria infection can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or fatal infection of the newborn.
  • Other adults may develop headache, stiff neck, mental confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.

Foods typically linked to listeriosis are deli meats, hot dogs, and soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. Produce is less often linked to outbreaks, although Listeria occurs in soil and water. Listeria are killed by cooking, but can grow and multiply in refrigerators.

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