“If you’re in doubt, throw it out” is an oft-cited food safety mantra, and the Centers For Disease Control are invoking the guideline to warn consumers about a gravely dangerous risk still posed by tainted canteloupe.
The outbreak that has since been traced back to a Colorado farm has sickened more than 70 people and killed 13 so far, and officials expect the death toll to rise as more illnesses and fatalities are linked to the deadly outbreak. As of now, officials confirm that four people have died in New Mexico, two deaths were reported in Colorado, two in Texas, and one per state in Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The majority of those fatally sickened by the cantaloupe were over the age of 60, and at least two of the dead were over the age of 90.
Seattle lawyer William Marler said that often, the severity of an outbreak is influenced by the product’s likeliest demographic:
“Sometimes in outbreaks, it’s the population that’s consuming the food that drives the numbers… In this instance, you’ve got a lot of people 60 and older who are consuming cantaloupe.”
One of the other high-risk groups for listeria contamination is pregnant women, as the bacteria is known to severely complicate pregnancy and cause miscarriages and stillbirths. Officials have not disclosed how many, if any, incidents like these have been linked to the outbreak.
The last serious listeria outbreak occurred back in 1985, when between 52 and 84 people died after eating Mexican cheese contaminated with the potentially deadly bacteria. Officials warn that the onset of illness from listeria-contaminated foods can be delayed, taking as long as two months to develop into listeriosis. The CDC also cautions that listeria can thrive at low temperatures, inhibiting the protective effects of refrigeration.