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FDA isolates Listeria in Jensen Farms’ cantaloupes, packing equipment

by Joan Murphy | September 20, 2011

WASHINGTON — U.S. Food & Drug Administration investigators say they have found Listeria on cantaloupe grown by Jensen Farms and sold in a Denver-area store and on samples taken from the farm’s packing

Tests confirmed that the Listeria monocytogenes found in the samples match one of the three different strains of Listeria monocytogenes associated with the multi-state outbreak of listeriosis, the FDA announced Sept. 19.

Colorado officials announced days earlier that Listeria samples from the human cases matched cantaloupes from Jensen Farms. Cantaloupe samples from the refrigerator of a Listeria patient’s home, as well as samples obtained from various retail outlets, have the same DNA fingerprints as the Listeria that has infected 12
Colorado residents, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment said Sept. 16.

Jensen Farms in Holly, CO, recalled its “Rocky Ford” brand cantaloupes on Sept. 14 in response to the multi-state outbreak of listeriosis, which has been linked to 35 people in 10 states, including four deaths.

“We commend Jensen Farms for its voluntary recall of its cantaloupe, which certainly was beneficial in helping to reduce further possible infection,” said Chris Urbina, chief medical officer and executive director of the CDPHE.


The FDA collected cantaloupes and environmental samples from a Denver-area store and from the Jensen Farms packing facility in Granada, CO, after Colorado state health officials identified Jensen Farms' “Rocky Ford” cantaloupes as the common food eaten by several listeriosis patients, the FDA said.


“Jensen Farms is working with federal and state authorities to ensure the recalled cantaloupes are promptly removed from the marketplace and to determine the root cause of how the cantaloupes became contaminated,” FDA said.

“The experts conducting the assessment will analyze the evidence, determine the most likely cause of contamination and identify potential controls to help prevent contamination in the future,” the FDA’s press statement said. “The FDA will use the findings to help inform agency policy regarding Listeria and produce
food-safety best practices.”

Listeria has not been associated with melons in the past.

Bill Marler, a Seattle-based trial attorney for Marler Clark, filed the first lawsuit against Jensen Farms and Walmart Stores on behalf of Tammy and Charles Palmer, a Colorado Springs, CO, resident who has been stricken with listeriosis. The complaint says Mr. Palmer became ill Aug. 30 and has been hospitalized ever

In the meantime, the FDA is advising consumers to throw away the recalled cantaloupes and not to try to wash the bacteria off because the cantaloupes may be contaminated inside.