Hopefully, Parts 1 through 5 showed that there was plenty of blame to go around to farmers, shippers, brokers, auditors, retailers and the government, and that with just some simple precautions and focus, this outbreak would never have occurred.
On December 8, 2011, the CDC determined that deadliest foodborne illness outbreak was officially over and issued its final report. As of that date a total of 146 persons infected with any of the four (actually five) outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes were reported to CDC from 28 states. The number of infected persons identified in each state was as follows: Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), California (4), Colorado (40), Idaho (2), Illinois (4), Indiana (3), Iowa (1), Kansas (11), Louisiana (2), Maryland (1), Missouri (7), Montana (1), Nebraska (6), Nevada (1), New Mexico (15), New York (2), North Dakota (2), Oklahoma (12), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (1), South Dakota (1), Texas (18), Utah (1), Virginia (1), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (4). Thirty deaths were reported: Colorado (8), Indiana (1), Kansas (3), Louisiana (2), Maryland (1), Missouri (3), Nebraska (1), New Mexico (5), New York (2), Oklahoma (1), Texas (2), and Wyoming (1). In addition, one woman pregnant at the time of illness had a miscarriage.
Since then two of my Listeria clients, Paul Schwarz (MO) and Sharon Jones (CO) have died. In addition, I learned recently Listeria victim, Dale Braddock (NE), also died. In addition dozens of others (my clients and not) are still suffering the impacts of eating Listeria-tainted cantaloupe. Most lives are forever changed for those who survived and the families of the 34 deaths (counting the miscarriage). Several of my clients’ acute phase medical expenses are over $5,000,000 total. Some will have similar expenses in the future. Despite the CDC’s determination of finality, it is far from over.
So, what has industry – farmers, shippers, brokers, auditors and retailers and the government done since the beginning of the outbreak or the announced end? The answer is nothing much, if at all. Did any visit a family, attend a funeral, invite them to a Congressional hearing, to visit the FDA, CDC or the White House? Of course not – those people, alive or dead, and their families, are just uncomfortable statistics.
Food safety will only become important when consumers are not statistics.