ATLANTA — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here last week reported that listeria-tainted cantaloupes from a Colorado farm have been responsible for as many as 16 deaths nationwide, making this the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in the United States in more than a decade.
The toll jumped sharply last week, and CDC officials warned that it could continue to rise, despite a traceback and recall by Jensen Farms in Holly, Colo.
“That long incubation period is a real problem,” CDC spokesman Dr. Robert Tauxe told The Associated Press. “People who ate a contaminated food two weeks ago or even a week ago could still be falling sick weeks later.”
In addition, 72 total illnesses in 18 states had been confirmed last week, according to the CDC. To prevent the spread of foodborne pathogens in produce, the CDC recommends thoroughly rinsing fruits and vegetables before consumption.
However, most consumers are not in the habit of washing fruits with inedible rinds, and in this case, listeria appears to have been spread via cross-contamination of knives and cutting surfaces.
In separate food safety news, Tyson last week recalled 131,000 pounds of ground beef due to possible E. coli contamination, after the Ohio Department of Health reported illnesses in Butler County.