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.