Our Chicago food poisoning attorneys read with concern about a recall issued this week for cantaloupe melons. So far the Center for Disease Control has linked 2 deaths and 22 illnesses across 7 states to a crop of cantaloupes contaminated with Listeria Monocytogenes.
Listeria Monocytogenes is a potentially deadly food poisoning bacteria that causes a condition called Listerosis. Listeriosis affects mainly pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and adults with lowered immune system, and when pregnant women are infected with Listeria Monocytogenes the infection can result in premature delivery, miscarriages, or stillbirth. Additionally, if a pregnant woman is exposed to contaminated food during pregnancy, the child can be born with Listeriosis.
Because Listeria is generally found in uncooked meats, processed foods, and other foods derived from animal products, this particular bout of contamination came as a surprise. In fact, this is the first time that an outbreak of Listeria has been linked to whole, unsliced cantaloupes. The bacteria does not generally affect fresh produce, and the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network has been working in conjunction with the Center for Disease control to investigate the source of the contamination.
Listeria Monocytogenes is sometimes found in soil, stream water, and sewage, which is potentially how the melons became infected. However, because the skin of cantaloupes is rough and porous, it’s also possible that they became contaminated during handling, or from being grown in and on contaminated soil, where the bacteria became lodged in the melon’s rind.
At this point, the cantaloupes have almost certainly been traced back to Jensen Farms, a grower of cantaloupes located in the Rocky Ford area of Colorado. The state of Colorado is also working with the Center for Disease Control to contain the outbreak and prevent it from spreading further. Major grocery store chains have removed the Colorado-grown cantaloupes from their shelves, which has, to date, totaled almost $8 million worth of produce lost.
According to the Center for Disease Control, the cases of Listerosis confirmed to be a result of the cantaloupe outbreak include 11 individuals from Colorado, 2 from Texas, and one each in Indiana, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Nevertheless, the cantaloupes were also shipped to grocery stores in Illinois, Wyoming, Tennessee, Utah, Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Arizona, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, so more cases may develop.
Listeria Monocytogenes carries a risk of death, and at least 15 of the individuals who have been affected have had to be hospitalized as a result of Lysteria complications. According to a report published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Biology, though Lysteria is a fairly uncommon disease, when a severe form of the infection takes hold, the case fatality rate may approach as much as 25% (Salmonella poisoning, in comparison, has a mortality rate estimated at less than 1%).
Symptoms of Listerosis include fever, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea, and other flu-like symptoms. If the bacteria is allowed to spread to the central nervous system, the individual may experience symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or even convulsions.
The contaminated cantaloupes may be labeled with either a grey, yellow, and green sticker that reads “Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords,” or a green and white sticker that reads “Product of USA- Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford-Cantaloupe.” If, however, you come across an unlabeled cantaloupe, either contact the store at which the melon was purchased to determine its source, or throw it away. These cantaloupes should not be eaten.
A doctor will be able to diagnose if you have been infected with Listerosis, and if caught in time, it is treatable. However, if you or a loved one have suffered serious injuries as result of having been exposed to contaminated foods, our Chicago personal injury lawyers may be able to help you determine your rights. Our Illinois food poisoning lawyers have the diligence and experience to fight for your rights.