Thumbnail image for cantaloupe-Listeria.jpgJon Ebelt of the Clark Fork Chronicle reported today that the Montana Department of the Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) is currently investigating two cases of listeriosis identified in Gallatin and Yellowstone counties. According to Montana health authorities, one case, in Yellowstone County, has been definitively linked to the outbreak of listeriosis linked to the consumption of Rocky Ford cantaloupes that has affected at least 22 people from 7 states, including Colorado (12), Indiana (1), Nebraska (1), New Mexico (4), Oklahoma (1), Texas (2), and West Virginia (1). The other Montana case is awaiting further testing.

At this time, DPHHS is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine distribution of the fruit in Montana. Until more is known regarding Montana’s cases and the distribution of the product, health officials are recommending not consuming cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford region of Colorado.

“Contaminated cantaloupes may still be in grocery stores and in consumers’ homes,” said DPHHS Director Anna Whiting Sorrell. “There are simple steps Montanans can take to reduce the risk of becoming ill.”

Today, the Marler Clark law firm filed the first lawsuit stemming from the cantaloupe Listeria outbreak.  The lawsuit was filed against Jensen Farms, Inc., Walmart, and other food companies on behalf of a Colorado Springs man who remains hospitalized as a result of his listeriosis infection. A press release from the firm explains that the plaintiff consumed the Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe in mid-August. He had purchased one whole cantaloupe at the Wal-Mart store located on Razorback Road in Colorado Springs several days before. He later fell ill with symptoms of listeriosis, the illness caused by Listeria infection, and ultimately tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, the strain of Listeria involved in the cantaloupe outbreak.

Bill Marler, attorney for the plaintiffs, asserts that “Wal-Mart, Jensen Farms, and other food companies have a public responsibility to all consumers to sell and distribute food that is free and clear of dangerous adulterants such as Listeria – no exceptions. In this case, a lapse in food safety assurance has relegated an innocent man to a hospital bed for a long time.”