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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

The Deadly 2011 Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak – My View Part 1

This is the first of a six part series on my view of the deadly cantaloupe Listeria outbreak of 2011.

First, a Bit of History

Although the 2011 outbreak was the first known Listeria outbreak associated with cantaloupe, cantaloupe outbreaks are by no means a new phenomenon.  Since 1985, in fact, there have been no less than 15 recognized outbreaks in the U.S. involving cantaloupes, grown domestically and internationally:

No.

Year

State(s)

Confirmed

Illnesses

Pathogen

Description

1.

1985

Wisconsin

16

Campylobacter

Melon or cantaloupe

2.

1990

30 states

245

Salmonella

Cut cantaloupe at salad bars

3.

1991

International, including U.S.

400

Salmonella

Likely Mexican cantaloupe

4.

1997

California

24

Salmonella

Mexican cantaloupe.

5.

1998

Ontario, Canada

22

Salmonella

Cantaloupe

6.

1999

Iowa

61

Norovirus

Restaurant, cantaloupe or melon

7.

2000

California, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, New Mexico, Nevada

47

Salmonella

Mexican cantaloupe

8.

2001

Multi-state and International

50

Salmonella

Viva Brand cantaloupe

9.

2002

California, Minnesota, Oregon, Arkansas, Vermont, Nevada, Texas

58

Salmonella

Susie Brand cantaloupe

10.

2003

New York, Ohio, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Missouri

58

Salmonella

Day care center and private homes, cantaloupe/honeydew melon

11.

2006

Multi-State and International

41

Salmonella

Cantaloupe cut at processing facility in Canada

12.

2007

California

11

Salmonella

Private home

13.

2008

Multi-State

53

Salmonella

Agropecuraria Mobtelibano cantaloupe, from Honduras

14.

2008

California

23

Norovirus

Restaurant, melon and cantaloupe

15.

2011

Multi-State

20

Salmonella

Del Monte cantaloupe

 

The CDC’s Case Count

A total of 146 persons infected with any of the four 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).

Among persons for whom information was available, reported illness onset ranged from July 31, 2011 through October 27, 2011.  Ages ranged from <1 to 96 years, with a median age of 77 years.  Most cases were over 60 years old.  Fifty-eight percent of cases were female.  Among the 144 ill persons with available information on whether they were hospitalized, 142 (99%) were hospitalized.

Thirty deaths[1] 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).  Among persons who died, ages ranged from 48 to 96 years, with a median age of 82.5 years.  In addition, one woman pregnant at the time of illness had a miscarriage.  Seven of the illnesses were related to a pregnancy; three were diagnosed in newborns and four were diagnosed in pregnant women.


[1]           We believe that number should now be 32 with the additional deaths of Sharon Jones and Paul Schwarz.