Sicknesses, Deaths Rise from Tainted Cantaloupe

Discussion
Sep 30, 2011
George Anderson

The Christian Science Monitor headline nailed the topic of today’s discussion: Listeria outbreak: How safe is America’s food chain?

As widely reported, cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in Holly, CO have led to the deadliest foodborne disease outbreak in more than 10 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 72 people have been sickened and 16 people have lost their lives in 18 states from eating melons contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

While the first illnesses began on July 31, it wasn’t until September 14 that the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning for consumers not to eat cantaloupe shipped by Jensen Farms between July 29 and September 10. Jensen Farms has voluntarily recalled all cantaloupe shipped between those dates.

According to an Associated Press report, cantaloupes may include the following labels: Colorado Grown, Distributed by Frontera Produce, Jensenfarms.com or Sweet Rocky Fords. Not all of the recalled cantaloupes are labeled.

“The FDA and CDC really got their minds around this one quickly and have therefore saved many lives and needless infections,” Steve Patricio, chairman of the Center for Produce Safety, told The Christian Science Monitor. “Within record time, they identified the single source and single shipper of contaminated cantaloupes and had the product pulled from stores. I think a big lesson here is that consumers should get their information directly from the CDC and FDA websites rather than from the media, which tend to needlessly escalate the fear.”

The outbreak demonstrates issues surrounding produce inspections, although the same piece points out that voluntary steps taken by the food industry have improved safety in other ways.

Patrick Rose, policy analyst at the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security, said part of the issue is that most of the attention to food safety has been paid to dairy and meat. “So there is still a gap to fill in terms of our surveillance efforts for produce contaminants,” he told the Monitor.

“The FDA is still lacking better tools to better monitor both locally and internationally imported produce and ensuring that citizens are safe,” Mr. Rose added. “Most importantly, public health outreach is not effective enough for various reasons. The simple remedy of paying better attention to hygiene is not entering our central conscience.”

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the long incubation period for Listeria means more people will get sick.

“We will see more cases likely through October,” Ms. Hamburg told The Associated Press.

Discussion Questions: How safe is America’s food supply? What needs to be done to make it safer?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

6 Comments on "Sicknesses, Deaths Rise from Tainted Cantaloupe"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 7 months ago

Not very apparently. My mother in law made me throw out all fruits and vegetables that start with the letter C because of this. I guess if you look at it from a big picture perspective, the food supply is pretty safe. It would seem that most of this rests on the FDA and their inability to track and control produce. Isn’t there a standard practice for producers? Is it feasible to have inspectors at every single plant in the US? Will poisoning consumers help your business in the long run? It’s laughable that the FDA would tell us on the 14th not to eat cantaloupes purchased between July 29 and Sept 10. Yeah, I will just hop in my DeLorean and go back in time and not eat it. Just another example of big ineffective government agencies. Perhaps the state needs to step in and take over?

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 7 months ago
It all depends on what the threat is. Are our meat plants safer than they were in the 1920s? Of course. Is our food supply an open target for disease, terrorism or psychopaths? Again, sadly, the answer is of course. We live in an open society and open societies are always at a greater risk than totalitarian systems. We also are lulled into complacency by the fact that there are a variety of inspection systems — conveniently overlooking the fact that there is no way the current number of inspectors could guarantee that all the food that comes to market is safe to eat. And … finally … most Americans don’t know (and don’t care) how to handle food safely. Think of all those kitchen cutting boards that regularly see raw chicken and other food products but rarely see bleach. Or take the recent listeria outbreak. How many consumers are sitting there with a contaminated cantaloupe in their refrigerator because they don’t know that conventional refrigeration doesn’t automatically kill listeria? On top of it all… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

“I think a big lesson here is that consumers should get their information directly from the CDC and FDA websites rather than from the media, which tend to needlessly escalate the fear.”

Thank you Mr. Patricio, I couldn’t have said it better.

Carlos Arambula
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Inherently, food is unsafe.

It’s truly remarkable and a credit to the authorities that we daily transport/process/prepare/serve food safely from remote destinations. The public needs to be educated on this subject — many will not look at the pop-up farmer markets the same way again — and fully grasp the implications of not having the safety measures in place.

What needs to be done? For starters, the regulatory organizations need to remain in place and in most cases strengthened. I hope this tragedy, serves notice to the American public and politicians that food safety is an essential function not a political stance.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

As in life, the safety and quality of any food supply is only as good as its weakest link. Countries, governments and other entities, as well as food producers are working together more than ever on food safety. Here are just a few examples of real work in action: http://is.gd/TUrRb, http://is.gd/R06A7N, http://is.gd/ilBrSM.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
9 years 7 months ago

I believe it is safe. Can it improve? Sure. But if you compare it historically or to the global market, it is doing well. The key to making it safer is technology. We need more ability to check food and confirm that it is safe.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

How would you assess the response of the Food and Drug Administration and Jensen Farms to the Listeria outbreak?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...