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Listeria Cantaloupe Are Off The Shelves, But Aftershocks Continue

The Huffington Post    
First Posted: 10/18/11 03:19 PM ET Updated: 12/18/11 05:12 AM ET

By now, all the cantaloupe potentially tainted with the listeria that has sickened dozens over the past four weeks has left the food system, reports Food Safety News. But aftershocks from the listeriosis outbreak -- the deadliest bout of food poisoning the U.S. has seen in 25 years -- continue to plague people and businesses throughout the country.

Reports of new listeriosis infections continue to trickle in: today, for example, marked the first reported case in Pennsylvania. New cases should, mercifully, taper off over the next week or so. But that fact will be of little solace to the families of the 23 people who have died as a result of cantaloupe-borne listeriosis over the past month. One tragic case in a pregnant woman resulted in the stillbirth of a fetus.

But the effects of the outbreak extend far beyond the direct, often lethal impact of bacterial infection.

Gosia Wozniacka of the AP, for example, wrote on the outbreak's ruinous impact on the California cantaloupe industry, which employs hundreds, if not thousands, of farm workers every year. No melons from any state besides Colorado have tested positive for infectious pathogens, but consumers have been wary of buying cantaloupe of any kind since news of the outbreak began to spread. Consumer skittishness has also taken a toll on stores unable to sell their cantaloupes.

The center of the firestorm, though, rests on Jensen Farms, the Colorado-based cantaloupe grower that was almost certainly the source of the listeria-infected fruit. The company, which has estimated annual revenues of $4.5 million, has a note on its Facebook page that refuses comment on its involvement controversy:

With test results pending, and the FDA's investigation into this outbreak ongoing, our counsel has advised us to refrain from answering any questions or becoming involved in any discussions at this time.
We do, however, feel that it is important to show our supporters that we remain focused.
As our research continues, we thought to share the following video (Fox 31 Denver) highlighting the work of Dr. Mansour, with whom we have been consulting over the past few weeks. His experience yields insight that we have found to be very helpful in deepening our understanding of the science behind food borne illness - and listeria specifically. His lab has researched numerous US outbreaks, and is respected throughout the industry for it's comprehensive and accurate testing methods.
We eagerly await results from both Mansour and the FDA, and hope to post once they become available.
Again a huge thanks to all those in continued support of our Family Farm.

Very Truly, our hearts go out to anyone with loss to this outbreak.
- The Jensen Family

The FDA report mentioned in the note is expected to be released within the week. CBS4's Rick Sallinger allegedly got a sneak peak at the findings; he said that it implicates Jensen Farms' packing facility, not its growing fields, as the source of the infestation. The ultimate fate of the farm, though, may rest more on the outcome of the "raft of litigation" it is facing than the exact wording of the governmental report.

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