Sugar Alert – Cantaloupe Trouble


By Dean L. Jones, C.P.M.

Right at the height of people turning toward consuming more fruits and vegetables, another food-borne bacteria outbreak comes along.   Recently grown cantaloupes from Colorado are blamed to have caused possibly 16 people to die from ‘listeria’ bacteria.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that it is the largest outbreak of this disease in over a decade.

This is a deadly bacterium more commonly associated and found in cheese or processed meats.  Even if you do not feel ill after eating cantaloupes recently, you should still check the cantaloupe source as it can take four weeks or more for a person to fall ill after eating food contaminated with listeria.  People who ate a tainted cantaloupe two weeks ago or even a week ago could still be falling sick weeks later.   Symptoms of listeria include fever and muscle aches, often with other gastrointestinal symptoms.  Victims often become incapacitated and unable to speak.  Listeria victims are measured to have a 25% fatality rate for those with a severe form of infection, unlike how the salmonella bacteria compares at a 1% mortality rate.

My sincere condolences go out to the family members of those dying from this listeria bacterium.  Particularly since anyone eating cantaloupe do so believing they are positively promoting a healthy diet.  Thus far, Kansas, New Mexico, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming and as far away as Maryland are the states reporting deaths related to this infected cantaloupe crop from Colorado.  Twenty-one people died in an outbreak of listeria poisoning in 1998 traced to contaminated hot dogs and possibly deli meats made by Bil Mar Foods, a subsidiary of Sara Lee Corporation.  The one outbreak that is most prevalent in my memory is the large listeria food-borne contamination in 1985 that killed 52 people and was linked to Mexican-style soft cheese.

The alert for this outbreak targets Jensen Farms, labeled as Rocky Ford brand cantaloupes and were shipped from July 29, 2011 through September 10, 2011 to Arkansas, Arizona, 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.  Portions of this large crop yield were also labeled ‘Colorado Grown’ and ’Sweet Rocky Fords’ distributed by Frontera Produce.

As a rule, you can rest assured that there are great benefits and health value linked with eating cantaloupes.  Cantaloupes are low in calories and a rich source of Vitamin A, C and beta-carotene.  A bit of trivia information when choosing cantaloupes is to select the ones that are fully ripened. This is according to science, as fruits fully ripen, almost to the point of spoilage, is when their antioxidant levels actually increase–even though they look as thou they have seen much better days.

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Mr. Jones is a marketing strategist with the Southland Partnership Corporation (a public benefit organization), sharing his view on mismanagement practices of packaged foods & beverages.