Jensen Farms, Frontera, and Especially Retailers, Pay Attention!

Screen Shot 2011-10-13 at 8.51.13 PM.pngAs of two days ago, the CDC counted a total of 116 persons infected with any of the four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes (Listeria) from 25 states. Four of the illnesses were related to a pregnancy; one was diagnosed in a newborn and three were diagnosed in pregnant women. All illnesses started on or after July 31, 2011. The number of infected persons identified in each state is as follows:

Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), California (1), Colorado (34), Idaho (1), Illinois (1), Indiana (3), Iowa (1), Kansas (7), Louisiana (2), Maryland (1), Missouri (4), Montana (1), Nebraska (6), New Mexico (13), New York (1), North Dakota (1), Oklahoma (11), Oregon (1), South Dakota (1), Texas (17), Virginia (1), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (3).

Because the incubation period for a Listeria infection can be over two months, and because possibly tainted cantaloupes were shipped as late as September 10, illnesses have likely yet to be counted in full. In addition, many ill – especially women who suffer miscarriages – are never counted. Although ill, many do not undergo confirmatory blood or spinal fluid testing, and are therefore never tallied by the CDC.

Sadly, twenty-three deaths have so far been reported:

5 in Colorado, 1 in Indiana, 2 in Kansas, 2 in Louisiana, 1 in Maryland, 1 in Missouri, 1 in Nebraska, 5 in New Mexico, 1 in New York, 1 in Oklahoma, 2 in Texas, and 1 in Wyoming. In addition, one woman pregnant at the time of illness had a miscarriage.

The death toll will continue to rise as those still in hospitals lose the fight with Listeria. In addition, many Listeria-related deaths are not counted as such because of lack of testing or co-morbidity health issues the complicate the cause of death.

Here are some staggering facts from the CDC:

Among persons for whom information is available, ages range from <1 to 96 years, with a median age of 78 years. Most ill persons are over 60 years old. Fifty-seven percent of ill persons are female. Among the 111 ill persons with available information on whether they were hospitalized, 109 (98%) were hospitalized.

98% hospitalized, and many still are, and may be for the rest of their lives. For those who have experience with the daily cost of hospital medical care, the medical care costs to date for those counted thus far are in the tens of millions of dollars. And, that does not begin to value a life cut short nor the tens of millions of dollars for future medical expenses for those who survive.

One thing is evident; Jensen Farms and Frontera are not likely to have sufficient insurance nor assets to fairly compensate the families of neither the dead nor those who face a lifetime of medical expenses. Both companies will face or enter bankruptcy.

All retailers who sold Jensen Farms Frontera cantaloupe will undoubtedly be left holding more than the grocery bag.

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    All the more reason why an ounce of prevention (hence FSMA — with full funding) is worth a pound of cure. This would pertain to all size of producers, as well . . .

  • Mrs Mudder

    Just a curious question! Who is responsible for the costs of this 2011 cantaloupe disaster?

  • Tim Lukens

    Bill- It cannot be emphasized enough the tragic part of losing loved ones to something like this. My thoughts and prayers go out to your clients. One thing that I have been curious about is why the medical community that folks are going to when they feel ill, missed diagnosing this? Are the doctors and hospitals also being held accountable for negligence in this matter. For your readers review I’ve posted one example that I googled, listeria is apparently treatable. This really makes what has happened hear tragic.
    Risks for Listeriosis
    It is estimated that two-thousand five-hundred persons in America become seriously ill with Listeriosis every year. Of this group, five-hundred die from the disease. People at greatest risk from Listeriosis include:
    * Newborns: Newborns, rather than the pregnant women themselves, often experience the serious effects of infection in pregnancy.
    * Persons with weakened immune systems
    * Persons with cancer, diabetes, or kidney disease
    * Persons with AIDS: People with AIDS are nearly 300 times more likely to get Listeriosis than people with average immune systems.
    * Persons who take Glucocorticosteroid medications
    * Seniors
    Adults who are healthy, as well as children, become infected with Listeriosis on occasion, but rarely become seriously ill.
    Listeriosis is treatable, for the most part. The presence of an increasingly immunocompromised population presents a greater threat from Listeriosis. Because Listeriosis is a disease that is easily transmitted from mother to fetus through the placenta, it is a worrisome one for expectant mothers, particularly since pregnant women themselves often do not show outward signs of the disease. Listeriosis is an important threat to public health and deserves notice.
    A number of doctors overlook the possibility of Listeriosis as a diagnosis simply because they are not aware of how easily the disease is able to both survive and grow in refrigerated foods. Large outbreaks have been caused by lunch meats and hot dogs that have been contaminated; these are foods that have previously not been considered to be dangerous. There is a need for ongoing research so that the intricacies and mechanisms of this disease can be better understood. More than anything, notions concerning the proper storage of foods need to be updated so that contamination can be kept to a minimum.
    Read more:

  • MB H

    There is no reason to suspect that all these cases came from Jensen Farms. In all likelihood, a considerable number of these people contracted their infection from other sources. About 2500 people are diagnosed in a year with listeria. Many of them never learn where they got it from. If you look at the numbers, the outbreak wasn’t as big as they are making it out to be. If 2500 a year get it on average, 125 cases over two months and 25 states isn’t that big a deal. Listeria usually isn’t a serious infection unless you are elderly, pregnant, otherwise compromised immune system etc. One thing is for sure, Jensen will get soaked, and he certainly doesn’t deserve it. He just got audited before the outbreak, and got a clean bill of health on his food safety.

  • MB H – your stupidity is only matched by your lack of a soul.