July 25, 2014

Listeria In The Cantaloupe Packing Shed, Again

During the investigation of last year’s deadly cantaloupe Listeria outbreak, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigators reported that they found the bacteria in the packing shed at Jensen Farms.  This week, the agency confirmed that they found Listeria in the packing shed of Burch Equipment, the North Carolina farm linked to the current recall of cantaloupe and honeydew melons.

Last year’s outbreak, in which 146 people became ill and 30 were killed, was the first time Listeria had been found in cantaloupe. Previously, outbreaks involving cantaloupe were usually linked to Salmonella. Now, one year after the novel and deadly pairing of cantaloupe and Listeria, the combination is back and so are problems with the packing shed.

No illnesses have been reported in connection with the Burch recall which now includes the entire growing season of cantaloupe and honeydew. But, as the FDA cautions, “consumers are reminded that, for Listeria, the length of time between consuming a product and becoming ill can be one to three weeks, but may be in the range of three to 70 days.”

The melons were initially distributed to 18 states but may have been redistributed to others. The cantaloupes had red stickers “Burch Farms Cantaloupe PLU 4319.”The honeydews had no identifying stickers.

Symptoms of a Listeria infection include fever and muscle aches. Sometimes those symptoms are preceded diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Pregnant women, young children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk.

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