An outbreak of a foodborne illness from Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe, which began the end of July, has already taken 13 lives as of Sept. 26, 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently the CDC is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to analyze DNA from the Listeria bacteria collected from patients in order to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak.
Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. [Read more on the Listeria outbreak]
In the multi-state outbreak, as of Sept. 26 72 people have been identified as infected with the four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes from 18 states, including: California (1 person infected), Colorado (15), Florida (1), Illinois (1), Indiana (2), Kansas (5), Maryland (1), Missouri (1), Montana (1), Nebraska (6), New Mexico (10), North Dakota (1), Oklahoma (8), Texas (14), Virginia (1), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (2) and Wyoming (1).
According to the CDC, about 800 cases of Listeria infection are diagnosed each year in the United States, along with three or four outbreaks of Listeria-associated foodborne illness. Foods that are typically behind these outbreaks include: deli meats, hot dogs and Mexican-style soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. While produce isn't the typical source of Listeria outbreaks, there have been reported cases, such as one in 2009 caused by contaminated sprouts and another in 2010 caused by celery.
On Sept. 14, Jensen Farms issued a voluntary recall of its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes after being linked to this multi-state outbreak of listeriosis.