Dear Chairman Upton and Chairman Stearns:
We are the husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children of some of the 109 people from 24 states whose lives have ended, or been permanently and grievously transformed, because they ate contaminated cantaloupes grown and sold by Jensen Farms. We write to you today to echo Representative Waxman and DeGette’s request for an investigation and hearing regarding the recent cantaloupe Listeria monocytogenes outbreak, and ask that you consider this additional request, from us—the consumers, the victims, and the families of many who remain too ill to speak or are simply not among us anymore.
As you know, this outbreak has now become the nation’s deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in more than a decade. At least 21 people have died as a result of eating cantaloupe. Some of us know the pain of these deaths first hand, and some of us are still caring for family members who remain hospitalized with uncertain prognoses. With the number of Listeria outbreak victims increasing weekly, you can be certain that more families will join our ranks before this outbreak is finally over.
Like victims of prior foodborne illness outbreaks traced to foods such as spinach, peanuts, and eggs, we seek answers to this tragedy. It is our hope that through public hearings involving the grower and distributor of these Listeria-contaminated cantaloupes and investigators from the public health community, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration, your committee can shed some light on the origins of this foodborne illness outbreak and provide the cantaloupe industry with information necessary to prevent outbreaks from occurring in the future.
Very Truly Yours,