Cantaloupe recalls are back in the news this week, as Carol’s Cuts of Kansas recalls 594 pounds of fresh cut cantaloupe, due to Listeria concerns. The recall affects their 5-pound chunk trays, as well as their 8-ounce mixed fruit medley.
We previously reported of the trouble stemming from Jensen Farms, of Holly, Colorado. Illnesses first started appearing on August 14, 2011, from people reporting to have consumed cantaloupe. Since then, it is reported that fifty-five people have fallen seriously ill from eating the tainted cantaloupe, with a death toll of eight. Of those who have died, two were in Colorado, one in Maryland, four in New Mexico, and one in Oklahoma. From the information provided, those who have fallen ill range from 35 years old to 96, with a median age of 78. Most of those with the illness are over 60 years of age, or have health conditions that weaken the immune system.
This is the first Listeria outbreak in the U.S. linked to cantaloupe, however it is not the first time that cantaloupes have been in question.
In August of this year, Del Monte filed suit against the FDA over a cantaloupe recall dating back to March 2011. At that time, Del Monte voluntarily recalled 4,992 cartons of cantaloupes due to Salmonella concerns. The recall was implemented after a notification from the FDA that there was an epidemiologic link between the cantaloupes and approximately 12 reported cases of Salmonella Panama. Del Monte, the largest importer of cantaloupes into the United States, put on hold the production and distribution of their product that contained cantaloupes from the affected farm. The FDA investigation ultimately found no connection between Del Monte Fresh cantaloupes and any cases of Salmonella Panama, and issued a notice ending the recall on July 29, 2011 (though the CDC maintained that its investigations pointed to imported Del Monte cantaloupes as the source of an outbreak). As such, Del Monte filed suit against the FDA.
In its complaint, Del Monte says its cantaloupes were wrongly blamed for the outbreak. Of the several reasons given for their contention, they allege that the FDA and other public health officials concluded that the outbreak illnesses were associated with eating cantaloupes, without ever having tested any cantaloupes to determine whether they contained Salmonella. They further allege that the FDA did not adequately account for the possibility that any allegedly contaminated cantaloupes came from sources other than Del Monte. The complaint says the retailer (Costco) sold cantaloupes from three other suppliers, in addition to Del Monte, but the FDA never investigated the other vendors to determine if they were a potential source of Salmonella contamination.
This month, Del Monte added the State of Oregon to their lawsuit.