September 2011

Missouri state health authorities on Thursday confirmed two more cases of listeria illness linked to Colorado-grown cantaloupes and a multistate food-borne outbreak that is already the deadliest in more than a decade.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said two people were hospitalized after coming down with symptoms of listeriosis, the illness caused by the listeria bacteria. One case was reported in the department’s eastern district, which includes St. Louis and surrounding counties, and another in the northwestern district, which includes Kansas City.

Health authorities had previously confirmed another case — that of a 94-year-old near Springfield, Mo., who died after contracting a listeria infection linked to the outbreak. The primary cause of death, however, was not listed as listeriosis.

Health department authorities did not specify Thursday where the newly confirmed cases were reported, or where the individuals lived. The severity of their illnesses was not clear.

“This is a horrible outbreak. At least 13 deaths thus far, and there are probably closer to 20 already,” said Bill Marler, a Seattle-based lawyer and food safety expert who has filed five lawsuits against the Colorado grower of the melons and retailers who sold them. “I expect that number to go up. This outbreak is not over. The recall is over, but I expect illnesses through the end of October.”

lettuce1.jpgCalifornia’s True Leaf Farms is voluntarily recalling 2,500 cartons of chopped romaine lettuce, because it might be contaminated with listeria.

The affected lettuce was shipped to 19 states, including Arizona. The bags have a “use by” date of September 29th.

Health officials here in the state say none of the affected lettuce should be on store shelves in Maricopa County.

So far, no illnesses have been reported.

Idaho health officials thought Idaho was safe from the outbreak, because the affected cantaloupe was not sold in the Gem State. But Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says they discovered that more than 43,000 pounds of the cantaloupe was donated in southeastern Idaho, after a commercial distribution center received a shipment too ripe to sell in stores.

“It was distributed to senior centers; I think there was an elementary school. [It was also sent to] food banks and private citizens,” said spokesperson Emily Simnitt.

The state Health Department said today it has confirmed one case in Arkansas of listeriosis related to tainted cantaloupe.

Health officials said the case is related to a multi-state outbreak that has been traced to whole Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, Colo. The Health Department advised people who have the cantaloupes to throw them away in closed plastic bags to prevent animals from eating them.

Officials did not release the name or location of the person who became sick in Arkansas but said the person has not traveled outside the state.

The New Mexico Department of Health Thursday confirmed a fifth death from the multi-state Listeriosis outbreak linked to Jensen Farms’ Rocky Ford cantaloupes. Eight others have been hospitalized with Listeria infection since mid-August.

New Mexico’s fatal cases include a 93-year-old man from Bernalillo County, a 61-year-old female from Curry County, a 63-year-old man from Bernalillo County, a 77-year-old man from McKinley County and a 96-year-old female from Lea County. The other New Mexico cases have come from Bernalillo, Chaves, Otero, De Baca, and Valencia counties. The cases range in age from the 43 to 96 and include seven men and six women.

True Leaf Farms of Salinas announced the recall of 90 cartons that were shipped to an Oregon food service distributor. From the distributor, it might have gone to at least two other states, Washington and Idaho.

The Food and Drug Administration notified the company that a sample from one bag taken as part of a random check tested positive for listeria.

Federal health officials say they’ve gotten better at detecting the germs that cause food poisoning, so they are seeing them in produce more often.

The recall covers product with a use by date of Sept. 29. The bag and box code is B256-46438-8.

UPDATE – Here is a consolidated “State of the States” listing, which summarizes the outbreak status and the recall information for each state (thanks to efoodalert).

  • Alabama:- No cases.
  • Alaska:- No cases. None of the cantaloupes were shipped to Alaska.
  • Arizona:- No outbreak cases. One cases of Listeria that is unrelated to the outbreak.
  • Arkansas:- one case.
  • California:- One confirmed case. According to the California Department of Public Health, none of the recalled cantaloupes were distributed in California (FDA’s news releases include California in the distribution list).
  • Colorado:- Fifteen (15) confirmed cases; two deaths.
  • Connecticut:- No cases.
  • Delaware:- No cases.
  • Florida:- One case.
  • Georgia:- No cases.
  • Hawaii:- No cases. No recalled cantaloupes were shipped to Hawaii.
  • Idaho:- One case under investigation – a Jerome County woman in her 60s, who became ill in early September and was hospitalized but has recovered.
  • Illinois:- One confirmed case (female in her 80s from Cook County). No additional cases under investigation.
  • Indiana:- Two cases.
  • Iowa:- No cases.
  • Kansas:- Five (5) confirmed cases, including one death. Three more cases (including a second death) are still under investigation.
  • Kentucky:- No outbreak cases. Three unrelated cases in the state this year.
  • Louisiana:- No cases. No Jensen Farms cantaloupes were shipped to the state.
  • Maine:- No cases.
  • Maryland:- One apparently related case (patient died at the end of August). The victims was a resident of central Maryland, and had eaten cantaloupe. Traceback is continuing.
  • Massachusetts:- No cases.
  • Michigan:- No cases.
  • Minnesota:- No cases.
  • Mississippi:- No cases.
  • Missouri:- One confirmed case (94-year old individual); one death. One suspect case still under investigation, and three unrelated cases that are not associated with the cantaloupe outbreak. The immediate cause of death of the confirmed case patient was not a Listeria infection.
  • Montana:- One confirmed case in Yellowstone County. One case under investigation in Gallatin County.
  • Nebraska:- Six (6) confirmed cases; one death (a man in his 80s from the western part of the state. No additional cases under investigation. The six victims – all of them more than 75 years old – were residents of five different counties: Douglas (2), Gage, Hitchcock, Seward, and Cherry.
  • Nevada:- No cases.
  • New Hampshire:- No cases.
  • New Jersey:- No cases.
  • New Mexico:- Eleven confirmed cases (5 deaths). An additional three suspect cases were still under investigation as of September 23rd; one of those three people has died.
  • New York:- No cases.
  • North Carolina:- No cases.
  • North Dakota:- One confirmed case – a 60+ year old woman who was hospitalized in early September. The recalled cantaloupes were supplied to Walmart stores in North Dakota.
  • Ohio:- No cases.
  • Oklahoma:- Eleven (11) confirmed cases, including one death. Outbreak victims are residents of nine different counties: Oklahoma (3), Canadian, Choctaw, Cleveland, Custer, Kay, Love, McCurtain, and Payne. The first Oklahoma patient developed symptoms on August 30th; the most recent on September 15th. The youngest outbreak victim is 61 years old, and the eldest is 96. Nearly three-fourths of the case-patients are male.
  • Oregon:- No cases.
  • Pennsylvania:- No cases.
  • Rhode Island:- No cases.
  • South Carolina:- No cases.
  • South Dakota:- No cases.
  • Tennessee:- No cases.
  • Texas:- Fourteen (14) confirmed cases, including 2 deaths. The investigation continues, but no specific details are being provided on suspect cases.
  • Utah:- No cases.
  • Vermont:- No cases.
  • Virginia:- One case.
  • Washington State:- No cases.
  • West Virginia:- One case. The recalled cantaloupes were not sold in West Virginia.
  • Wisconsin:- Two (2) cases.
  • Wyoming:- One confirmed case (a male). Two suspect cases (both female), including one death. Illnesses were reported from Laramie and Sheridan counties. Onset dates of illnesses range from August 31st to September 15th.

As of September 29th, CDC and various states are reporting a total of 77 confirmed cases (up from CDC’s last report of 72), and 16 deaths.

Many consumers across the US have asked me whether any of the recalled cantaloupes were shipped to their state or carried by their local supermarket. FDA reports that the recalled cantaloupes were distributed to the following 25 states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. Contrary to previous reports, none of the cantaloupes were exported.

72 persons infected with the four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported to CDC from 18 states. All illnesses started on or after July 31, 2011. The number of infected persons identified in each state is as follows: California (1), 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). Thirteen deaths have been reported: 2 in Colorado, 1 in Kansas, 1 in Maryland, 1 in Missouri, 1 in Nebraska, 4 in New Mexico, 1 in Oklahoma, and 2 in Texas. Listeriosis illnesses in several other states are currently being investigated by state and local health departments to determine if they are part of this outbreak.

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The North Dakota Health Department is investigating a case of listeria illness linked to Colorado cantaloupes, the director of disease control said Tuesday night.

The case involves an older woman in the central part of the state, Director Kirby Kruger said. He did not identify her, but said she was hospitalized. He did not have information on her condition.

“She did have a history of consuming cantaloupe,” Kruger said. “We’re still involved in the investigation, trying to determine where she got the cantaloupe.

“Listeriosis can have a long incubation period – up to 60 days. You try to remember what you ate over that long of a period,” Kruger said.

The lab evidence so far indicates a “good probability” of a link to the woman’s illness and the Colorado cantaloupes, he said.

Health officials say as many as 16 people have died from possible listeria illnesses traced to Colorado cantaloupes, the deadliest food outbreak in more than a decade.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that 72 illnesses and 13 deaths are linked to the tainted fruit. State and local officials say they are investigating three additional deaths that may be connected.

The death toll released by the CDC Tuesday – including newly confirmed deaths in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas – surpassed the number of deaths linked to an outbreak of salmonella in peanuts almost three years ago. Nine people died in that outbreak