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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Where are we on the Jensen Farms Frontera Listeria Outbreak?

The CDC has reported a total of 72 persons infected with the four outbreak-associated strains (genetic patterns) of Listeria monocytogenes from 18 states. Those numbers will likely increase as more ill and dead are counted. In addition, the incidence of listeriosis in pregnancy is 12 per 100000, compared with a rate of 0.7 per 100000 in the general population. To date, it is unclear if the CDC numbers are counting miscarriages. Also, it is unclear what the estimated numbers of ill are. Generally, it is two to three times the actual counted.

All illnesses started on or after July 31, 2011 and continue through min-September. The number of infected persons identified in each state is as follows: California (1), Colorado (15), Florida (1), Illinois (1), Indiana (2), Kansas (5), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), Montana (1), Nebraska (6), New Mexico (10), North Dakota (1), Oklahoma (8), Texas (14), Virginia (1), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (1).

Ages range from 35 to 96 years, with a median age of 78 years old. Most ill persons are over 60 years old or have health conditions that weaken the immune system. Fifty-eight percent of ill persons are female. Among the 67 ill persons with available information on whether they were hospitalized, 66 (99%) were hospitalized.

Thirteen deaths have been reported: 2 in Colorado, 1 in Kansas, 1 in Maryland, 1 in Missouri, 1 in Nebraska, 4 in New Mexico, 1 in Oklahoma, and 2 in Texas.  There are at least 3, and likely more to be counted.

The Cantaloupes where grown and processed by Jensen Farms and distributed by Frontera and shipped from July 29 through Sept 10 to at least 25 states with possible further distribution. The known states are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. 

Laboratory testing by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified Listeria monocytogenes bacteria on cantaloupes collected from grocery stores and from an ill person’s home. Product traceback information from Colorado state officials indicated these cantaloupes also came from Jensen Farms. Laboratory testing by FDA has identified L. monocytogenes matching outbreak strains in samples from equipment and cantaloupe at the Jensen Farms’ packing facility in Granada, Colorado.

And, for the argument that the sick and dead should have washed away the listeria, the FDA advises consumers not to eat the recalled cantaloupes and to throw them away. In Fact, the FDA says:

Do not try to wash the harmful bacteria off the cantaloupe as contamination may be both on the inside and outside of the cantaloupe. Cutting, slicing and dicing may also transfer harmful bacteria from the fruit’s surface to the fruit’s flesh.

  • Catherine

    I’ve been reading various websites, including the CDC and have yet to see anyone mention the connection between Listeria and municipal sludge application to agricultural lands. I did see some old journal articles about the incidence of listeria survival on sludge applied ag lands in France in year 2000. Is the bacteria taken up in the roots and then inside the fruits/vegs or is it on the exterior/skins of the fruits/vegs (whereby the contamination would occur when it is sliced/carried through the veg material). Or is the contamination occurence from the hands of people handling the fruits/vegetables in the field or packing or preparation. These seem to be the obivious questions that aren’t being addressed. Why the silence on this or is it because our agricultural system and related politics are afraid to reveal the truth. The article about France suggests that the high cost of sludge disposal in landfills is driving the land application. In 2000 the article indicated that 76% of France’s sludge was applied to agricultural lands. I wonder what the % is here in the US. All very scary…..

  • Mrs. Mudder

    I agree with Catherine’s comment on the municipal sludge applications on fields and the problems that may follow! So… what is the answer and how do we get to the truth? The real truth!? Help please.
    Mrs. Mudder

  • Mrs. Mudder

    I agree with Catherine’s comment on the municipal sludge applications on fields and the problems that may follow! So… what is the answer and how do we get to the truth? The real truth!? Help please.

    Mrs. Mudder