Another Cantaloupe Outbreak Kills 2, Sickens 141 | Squid Ink | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Food Safety

Another Cantaloupe Outbreak Kills 2, Sickens 141

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Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 12:07 PM

click to enlarge cantaloupes - FLICKR/CLEARLY AMBIGUOUS
In a fatal rerun of the 2011 outbreak, two people have died and 141 have been sickened since July 7 after eating cantaloupes, the Wall Street Journal reports. But unlike last year's Listeria outbreak in cantaloupes, this year's deadly melons contain Salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both deaths occurred in Kentucky, although the cantaloupes likely were grown in southwestern Indiana, the CDC said. The melons were distributed to 20 states, including California, where two illnesses have been reported.

This "second deadly contamination outbreak in cantaloupes in less than a year is putting pressure on the Obama administration to finalize a broad revision of food-safety rules," the WSJ says. Twenty eight people died in last year's outbreak.

Pissed off food-safety advocates say the outbreaks could have been prevented by the Food Safety Modernization Act, which creates the first mandatory national safety standards for produce and will require a greater number of federal inspections at farms and other food-handling facilities. President Barack Obama signed the act into law on Jan. 4, 2011, but slacker lawmakers have been dragging their feet on writing rules to implement it.

The suspected ground zero farm in Indiana associated with the current outbreak is withdrawing its cantaloupes from the market and has agreed to cease distributing cantaloupes for the rest of the growing season, the FDA said

Wal-Mart, which sold last year's Listeria-laced cantaloupes, obtains cantaloupes from southwestern Indiana for stores in several states, spokeswoman Dianna Gee told the WSJ, but the company has removed them from shelves. None of the cantaloupes Wal-Mart was selling have been implicated in the outbreak, she added.

Consumers shouldn't eat cantaloupes that were grown in southwestern Indiana, the CDC said. The growing area is often identified with a sticker. But if it's not, "When in doubt, throw it out," the agency advised.

There is nothing inherently dirty about cantaloupes. Much of the contamination danger lies in how the cantaloupes are handled during and after harvest, experts say.

The FDA has blamed last year's Listeria contamination of cantaloupes on contaminated equipment and pools of tainted water on the floor of washing and packing facility Jensen Farms, which, as we reported last week, is currently facing possible criminal prosecution for the deadly outbreak.


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