If you find a cantaloupe in your Halloween night goody bag, perhaps it is best set aside.
For decades, trick-or-treaters have heard the scare stories about tainted treats, but the cantaloupe nightmare continues for consumers and a Colorado grower. Another death has been confirmed, blamed on listeria-tainted cantaloupe. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration believes it has determined the cause of the outbreak.
The latest fatality in Colorado brings to 25 the number of deaths related to the contamination and solidified the outbreak as the deadliest in the US in more than a quarter-century. 12 states have been affected, and more than 123 cases of illness have been reported.
According to the FDA, pools of water were allowed to stand on the packing floor at Jensen Farms allowing the growth of listeria bacteria, and old machinery that proved difficult to properly clean contributed to the problem.
Samples taken from Jensen Farms tested positive for the listeria bacteria.
The farm had recently purchased used equipment that was put into use despite being corroded and difficult to clean. The FDA says the presence of the bacteria, the machinery, and the cooling practices used immediately after harvest all contributed to the spread of the bacteria.
Even though the tainted cantaloupes should all be removed from grocery stores by now, the outbreak will likely continue since listeria symptoms can take more than two months to become apparent. In most cases, listeria can be warded off by healthy immune systems, but among the high-risk groups, its effects can be deadly.
The latest deaths occurred in Colorado – the sixth in that state – and New York, where the latest death is the second. Other fatal reactions to the bacteria have been recorded in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
The outbreak has been traced to Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado, which recalled the cantaloupes last month.