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Food Poisoning Health Center

Death Toll Rises From Listeria in Cantaloupes

4 Known Deaths, 3 More Suspected From Listeria-Contaminated Cantaloupes
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The FDA says you should not to try to wash bacteria from the recalled cantaloupes, as both the inside and outside of the melons may be contaminated.

Listeria monocytogenes bacteria cause a disease called listeriosis. The bacteria are commonly found in the soil, where they eat dead plant matter. When consumed, the bacteria change their nature and become able to enter cells. Unless controlled by immune responses, they can escape the gut and enter the bloodstream.

Blood infection with listeria is extremely serious. The bacteria can enter the brain and nervous system, causing disability or death. Listeria can also infect a developing fetus, causing miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or death of the newborn.

How to Avoid Listeria

As contaminated cantaloupes may still be in grocery stores or in people's homes, the CDC has issued this advice:

  • People at high risk for listeriosis, including older adults, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women, should not eat cantaloupes marketed as coming from the Rocky Ford region of Colorado.
  • People who have cantaloupes in their homes can check the label or inquire at the store where they purchased it to determine if the fruit was marketed as coming from the Rocky Ford region of Colorado.
  • Listeriosis primarily affects older adults, people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and newborns. People who think they might have become ill from eating possibly contaminated cantaloupes should consult their doctor immediately.
  • Cantaloupes marketed as coming from the Rocky Ford region should be disposed of in a closed plastic bag placed in a sealed trash can. This will prevent people or animals from eating them.

As other foods besides cantaloupes can carry listeria, the CDC recommends these general steps to avoid listeriosis:

  • Rinse raw produce, such as fruits and vegetables, thoroughly under running tap water before eating. Dry the produce with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting them up.
  • Thoroughly cook raw meat and poultry.
  • Heat hot dogs, deli meats, and cold cuts until they are steaming hot just before serving.
  • Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk and do not eat fresh, soft cheeses that have unpasteurized milk in them, especially Mexican-style cheeses like queso fresco.
  • Be sure that your refrigerator is at or below 40 degrees F and your freezer is at or below 0 degrees F by using a refrigerator thermometer.

 

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