09/29/2011 02:04 pm ET Updated Nov 29, 2011

Listeria Makes A Political Appearance In Fliers Supporting Denver's Sick Day Ballot Initiative

A political flier has been upsetting some Denver residents who say that its allusion to the deadly listeria outbreak is in poor taste. The fliers were sent out by Campaign for a Healthy Denver in support of Initiative 300, also known as the "sick day initiative".

The initiative, which if passed would mandate up to 72 hours of sick leave to private and city employees every year, has attracted a lot of notable opponents. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Governor John Hickenlooper, and four of the state's chambers of commerce have all opposed the measure saying that it would be unhealthy for Denver's small businesses and would cost $750,000 to implement.

A spokeswoman for the Campaign for a Healthy Denver, Erin Bennett, told the Huffington Post that their volunteers who have gone door-to-door and made phone calls to Denver voters have not heard complaints about the mailers.

"There are food-borne outbreaks we can't control, like listeria," Bennett said. "But there are others we can minimize through ensuring that sick food workers can stay home by enacting this policy...The point of the mail piece was to use something in the news to highlight the seriousness of food-borne illnesses, and how vulnerable we are to food outbreaks."

But using listeria--which has killed 13 so far, and may climb through October because the disease has a two month incubation period--as an argument for the initiative has crossed a line for several opponents.

“It is outrageous and disgusting to use a tragedy for a political campaign,” Greg Sauber, co-owner of the Wash Park Grille told the Denver Post.

Featuring a photo of a cantaloupe, the mailer poses the question:

What can you do to make your food safer? Make sure workers handling food are healthy.

There are many types of food contamination we can't control. But we can help stop sick workers from handling our food by voting yes on Initiative 300.

The outbreak is the deadliest food outbreak in the U.S. in over a decade. However, listeria is not bound only to worker health. It can be found in soil, water and animals who may not even appear ill.

The initiative has collected enough signatures to make it onto the November ballot, and proponents see it as an initiative that will allow employees time to take care of their health. The other benefit, they argue, is that it would help keep customers healthy too since they wouldn't have to risk being served by an employee who couldn't afford to take time off.

The listeria outbreak has claimed 16 lives across 18 states and at least 72 illnesses, not 13 deaths as reported above.