Fruit is considered a healthy treat. But this may not be the best time to enjoy cantaloupe. The U.S. government is warning consumers to avoid cantaloupes from Colorado. The melons are contaminated with listeria, which is a bacteria. So far at least 84 people in more than 19 states have become ill after eating bad melons. At least 17 people have died from the infection. That number may grow. The bacteria have been traced to cantaloupe from Jensen Farms, in Colorado.
Jensen Farms appears to be the single source of the outbreak. “If it's not Jensen Farms, it's okay to eat," said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). "But if you can't confirm it's not Jensen Farms, then it's best to throw it out."
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recalled 300,000 cases of cantaloupe grown on the farm. The outbreak is the deadliest of its kind in more than 10 years in the U.S., according to the FDA.
A Bad Bug and Infection
Listeriosis is the name given to the serious infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes. The bacteria have a long incubation period. That means that it may take as long as four weeks for people who have eaten contaminated food to feel ill.
Listeria can be eliminated by cooking, but not by freezing or refrigeration. Unlike most bacteria, listeria can continue to grow at low temperatures even after the original source is gone. The CDC is urging people to clean and sanitize all areas where contaminated food items may have been. And when it comes to the food itself, the CDC advises consumers to follow the motto: "When in doubt, throw it out."
How To Avoid Getting Sick
On September 28, True Leaf Farms in California recalled bags of chopped romaine lettuce. The lettuce also may be contaminated by listeria. No illnesses have been reported yet.
The recent outbreaks have many people taking a closer look at their food and how to stay safe. Remember: Always wash your hands after handling whole melons such as cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon, and wash or scrub rinds before cutting. Once fruit is cut, eat it promptly or refrigerate the leftovers for no more than a few days.