Alan Bavley of the Kansas City Star did a great job putting a human face on a now nationwide listeria cantaloupe outbreak that has sickened 133 while killing 28.  His story – “Listeria traced to cantaloupe hits home for one KC family,” ran this morning.  Here is part:

GxqUU.Em.81.jpgPaul Schwarz used to eat a lot of cantaloupe, but not anymore.

At least some of the melons Schwarz enjoyed for breakfast this summer came from Jensen Farms, the Colorado grower whose cantaloupe contaminated with listeria bacteria have been responsible for the nation’s deadliest food-borne disease outbreak in 26 years.

The 92-year-old Kansas City man was knocked off his feet by a listeria infection called listeriosis and spent five weeks in the hospital. Now he’s recovering in a nursing home. And he’s become the first area resident with listeriosis to sue Jensen Farms. The suit has been filed in federal court.

“It’s just like he has brain trauma,” said his son, also Paul Schwarz. “His speech, enunciating is difficult. He’s bed- and wheelchair-bound. He needed to have his food cut into small pieces.”

We need more stories like this to drive home the point that these people our all of our friends and families.  This can happen to you or a loved one as easy as it happened to the Schwarz family.  And it did not have to happen:

… when the FDA inspected Jensen Farms in September, it told a different story. While there were no signs of listeria in the growing fields, the bacteria were found throughout the processing and storage areas.

Poor drainage allowed water to pool under machinery. Inspectors found listeria there.

The used washing and drying equipment the company installed in July was not easy to clean and had built-up dirt and residue from the cantaloupe. Inspectors found listeria there, as well.

FDA inspectors also found that discarded cantaloupe were hauled to a cattle operation. The truck was parked next to the packing plant. Listeria on workers or equipment may have been carried into the plant from the truck, the FDA suggested.

And after the cantaloupe were harvested and washed, they went straight into storage without being pre-cooled. The fruit, still warm with field heat, and with their rinds wet from washing, created an ideal environment for listeria to grow, the FDA said.

“The FDA report reads like an instruction manual on how not to raise cantaloupe,” said Drew Falkenstein, a lawyer with Marler Clark, the Seattle law firm representing Schwarz. “Once bacteria were introduced, it was an accident waiting to happen.”

But, an accident that could have been avoided.