A listeriosis outbreak first reported last month has now resulted in 23 deaths, making this the deadliest outbreak since 1985, when 52 people died from the Listeria strain contracted via Mexican-style soft cheese. The sad food story began last month when a Colorado produce company issued a cantaloupe recall for melons sold between July 29 and September 12. By then, 13 deaths had been traced to the bacteria. Now, people in at least 25 different states are reportedly ill from the outbreak. Pre-cut fruit was also recalled earlier this month in New York, where one company feared the distribution of potentially tainted chunks of cantaloupe.
A California produce company suffered a similar scare at the end of September when the bacteria showed up in a bag of chopped romaine lettuce during random testing by the FDA. True Leaf Farms recalled nearly 2,500 cartons of their product, but no illnesses have been linked to their lettuce. The FDA said there was no link between the lettuce and cantaloupe recalls.
Officials said that all potentially tainted fruits are no longer on store shelves, but listeriosis can go undetected for up to 70 days. The last Listeria outbreak to hit the U.S. was in 1998, when 21 people died from listeriosis bacteria transmitted through hot dogs and processed meats. The disease is deadlier than E.coli and salmonella.
Those over age 60 are most likely to contract the disease, and the average age of people who are sick now is 78. Pregnant women and others with weak immune systems also fall more vulnerable to listeriosis. The FDA said that one miscarriage has been linked to the disease.