Listeria outbreak pushes Rocky Ford cantaloupes to be pulled

09/12/2011 04:25:00 PM
Andy Nelson

click image to zoomCourtesy Food and Drug AdministrationOfficials with distributor Frontera Produce Ltd. of Edinburg, Texas, said they began working with Jensen Farms Sept. 12 on a voluntary recall of cantaloupe possibly linked to a listeria outbreak(UPDATED COVERAGE, Sept. 15, 6:40 p.m.) Cantaloupes shipped by a grower in Colorado’s Rocky Ford region have been linked to a deadly listeria outbreak in Colorado, New Mexico and 15 other states.

Granada, Colo.-based Jensen Farms issued a voluntary recall of its cantaloupes Sept. 14.

However, company officials with the distributor, Frontera Produce, Edinburg, Texas, said voluntary recall efforts began Sept. 12.

“As soon as the Colorado officials narrowed it down to the Rocky Ford region, we immediately initiated voluntary recall measures,” Frontera executive vice president Amy Gates said Sept. 15. “We shut down operations on Monday (Sept. 12). We stopped harvest, packing and distribution. We called our customers and told them if they had trucks on the road to call them back."

Gates said Frontera and Jensen Farms are cooperating with the Food and Drug Administration and Colorado officials to investigate the situation and notify retail customers and consumers.

Courtesy FDAThe recalled cantaloupe were distributed in 17 states and carried this label.Retailers including Safeway, Whole Foods and King Soopers voluntarily pulled Rocky Ford cantaloupes off shelves in many markets. Some Colorado retailers began pulling Rocky Ford product as early Sept. 9 or Sept. 10, said Gary Shane, co-onwer of Gary Shane Farms, La Junta, Colo.

Eleven cases of listeria in Colorado, 10 in New Mexico, two in Texas and one each in Indiana, Nebraska and Oklahoma have been linked to contaminated cantaloupes, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the New Mexico Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nine people sickened by listeria in Colorado reported eating cantaloupe. All nine were hospitalized and one died, according to the Colorado department. A second death was reported, but has not been linked to the nine confirmed cases.

Nine of the 10 people stricken in New Mexico reported eating cantaloupe. Four were hospitalized and three died.

Gary Shane Farms was inspected Sept. 9 and given a clean bill of health Sept. 13, Shane said. The company took back some product from retailers before Sept. 13, but recalls came at the very end of its deal, Shane said. Only two of the roughly 125 loads Gary Shane Farms shipped this summer were recalled, Shane said.

Most other Rocky Ford shippers also are done shipping for the season, Shane said Sept. 15.

Because Rocky Ford was at the end of its deal, and because the region’s shipments rarely extend beyond the center of the country, the effect of the recall on volumes and markets will likely be minimal, said Jim Malanca, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Westside Produce Co., Firebaugh, Calif.


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Frank    
McAllen, TX  |  September, 14, 2011 at 11:47 AM

What is the mechanism that allows the edible portion of the fruit to be contaminated? Is it happening on the farm, in the harvesting and packing, or at the point of process (cutting into portions)?

Greg Johnson    
Lenexa, Kan.  |  September, 15, 2011 at 05:12 PM

Pathogens that are on the outside of cantaloupes, the netting, can be spread to the inside when fruit is cut with a knife. FDA recommends people wash cantaloupes with soap and clean water before cutting.

Frank    
McAllen, TX  |  September, 16, 2011 at 10:39 AM

So does that mean that the processor, kitchen or consumer who did not wash the cantaloupes that they cut are just as culpable or may be more so than the producer/packer?

Diana    
Pueblo West, CO  |  September, 16, 2011 at 12:08 PM

This post is just in general, not personal. A person intends to consume something that was grown on the ground with feet and tires going by, water, other animals, etc. Then it is harvested by someone touching it, then handled who knows how many times, then in the store by any number of consumers, the check out clerk, the bag person, then maybe your kids, husband or wife, then you. Are you freaking kidding me that you are not going to scrub that puppy before you cut into it? Just asking..............

Diana    
Pueblo West, CO  |  September, 16, 2011 at 12:10 PM

This post is just in general, not personal. A person intends to consume something that was grown on the ground with feet and tires going by, water, other animals, etc. Then it is harvested by someone touching it, then handled who knows how many times, then in the store by any number of consumers, the check out clerk, the bag person, then maybe your kids, husband or wife, then you. Are you freaking kidding me that you are not going to scrub that puppy before you cut into it? Just asking..............

David    
Yuma AZ  |  September, 17, 2011 at 08:49 AM

The fact is the producers of american grown produce and most american farms are cleaner than they have ever been. Growers do the growing now with food safty at the forfront but the general public should take into count that once it leaves the farm there are more chances of it being contaminated by pepole with out food safty at the forfront of there mind. It always comes back to the producer and the ag industry as the one to blame. I guess all the money our industry has to spend on lawyers sould be spent on teaching the public in an add education commercial on how to clean there food before they eat it . My question is where does the ag indusrty responcibility end as a grower and a person producing the best product for the lowest price. We are the only industry that get a lower price for our products for doing a good job. We can not just simple pass on the cost to the consumer like other industrys do.

Mary    
Fresno  |  September, 29, 2011 at 08:14 PM

Why don't they put a sticker on each melon, or something on the box on how to handle and wash a melon before the public eat them..something simple. If i see sticker i read them, and would do what it says...

Charles Jordan    
Colorado  |  September, 19, 2011 at 06:21 PM

Diana and David make a good point. How is sanitation of produce handled after it leaves the farm? Maybe somebody needs to take a careful look at this link in the food chain. And, its only common sense to wash your food before you eat it, and your hands as well.

Red    
California  |  September, 27, 2011 at 01:38 PM

These food contamination problems wouldn't happen if the industry adopted eco-safe ozonated water as a HACCP protocol. Kills all food borne pathogens on contact. 100% safe. FDA approved. USDA Organic. Can't see why it's not required. http://www.lamission.edu/techprep/docs/Eco%20Safe.pdf

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