A listeria outbreak in cantaloupe last year killed dozens and sickened hundreds, and food safety experts are now lamenting a lack of lessons learned after a second deadly listeria outbreak that sickened more than 140 people and killed at least two across several states, again due to cantaloupe.
The listeria outbreak in cantaloupe in part stems from a natural propensity in the fruit for harboring the potentially deadly bacteria, and, as we reported earlier, a listeria outbreak in cantaloupe in and of itself is not unusual.
According to the Detroit Free Press, there have been 13 recorded listeria outbreaks in cantaloupe since 1990 alone, and the reasons for the contamination are varied. The porous exterior of a cantaloupe is ideal for harboring and facilitating bacteria growth, and the fruit’s pitted surface is particularly well-suited for catching farm runoff laden with dangerous germs and manure.
However, food safety experts believe that the most recent cantaloupe listeria outbreak could have been prevented, and one spoke to the paper about her frustration with manufacturers in light of recent legislative changes:
“Food-safety advocate Nancy Donley said she’s ‘hopping mad’ over the latest outbreak. ‘These illnesses and deaths are preventable,’ said Donley, a spokeswoman for STOP Foodborne Illness. Her group has urged the Food and Drug Administration to more quickly put out new regulations, based on authority from 2010 legislation. ‘This shouldn’t have happened.’ “
In the most recent outbreak of listeriosis stemming from cantaloupe, the bulk of illnesses — 31 of which required hospitalization — occurred in Kentucky. The two people believed to be fatally sickened by the contaminated cantaloupe were both from Kentucky.
Last year’s outbreak was traced to Colorado’s Jensen Farms, according to the CDC, but the cantaloupe affected in this year’s outbreak were grown in Indiana.