On Monday, September 19, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it found Listeria monocytogenes in samples of Jensen Farms’ Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupe taken from a Denver-area store and on samples taken from equipment and cantaloupe at the Jensen Farms’ packing facility.
Tests confirmed that the Listeria monocytogenes found in the samples matches one of the three different strains of Listeria monocytogenes associated with the multi-state outbreak of listeriosis.
Jensen Farms recalled its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes on September 14 in response to the multi-state outbreak of listeriosis. Cantaloupes from other farms in Colorado, including farms in the Rocky Ford growing area, have not been linked to this outbreak.
Jensen Farms shipped the recalled cantaloupes from July 29 through September 10 to at least 17 states with possible further distribution.
FDA investigators collected cantaloupes and environmental samples from a Denver-area store and from the Jensen Farms packing facility in Granada, after Colorado state health officials identified Jensen Farms’ Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes as the common food eaten by several listeriosis patients.
The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention reports that 35 people in 10 states, including five deaths, have been infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes.
Jensen Farms, based in Holly, is cooperating with the FDA and state officials in Colorado. The company is working with federal and state authorities to ensure the recalled cantaloupes are promptly removed from the marketplace. Jensen Farms is also helping federal and state authorities determine the root cause of how the cantaloupes became contaminated.
The FDA’s root-cause investigation and environmental assessment includes the on-site expertise of FDA and state of Colorado microbiologists, environmental health specialists, veterinarians and investigative officers. 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 will use the findings to help inform agency policy regarding Listeria and produce food safety best practices.
The FDA advises consumers, especially persons at high risk for listeriosis (older adults, persons with weakened immune systems and pregnant women) not to eat the recalled cantaloupes and to throw them away. Even if some of the cantaloupe has been eaten without becoming ill, dispose of the rest of the cantaloupe immediately. Listeria bacteria can grow in the cantaloupe at room and refrigerator temperatures. Do not try to wash the harmful bacteria off the cantaloupe as contamination may be both on the inside and outside of the cantaloupe. Cutting, slicing and dicing may also transfer harmful Listeria monocytogenes from the fruit’s surface to the fruit’s flesh.