Laboratory results of samples obtained by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s state lab have confirmed a direct link between human cases in the Listeria outbreak and cantaloupe labeled as “Rocky Fords” from Jensen Farms in Holly.
Cantaloupe samples from the refrigerator of a Listeria patient’s home, as well as samples obtained from various retail outlets last week, have the same DNA fingerprints as the Listeria that has infected 12 Colorado residents. All of the Listeria-positive cantaloupe samples at this time appear to have been grown at Jensen Farms.
A total of 12 cases in Colorado are linked to the outbreak, including one death. The CDC reports at least 22 people in seven states have been infected with the outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes as of Sept. 14.
Dr. Chris Urbina, chief medical officer and executive director of the department, reiterated to consumers, “Individuals who are high risk for listeriosis should not eat cantaloupe if they know it’s from Jensen Farms or if they don’t know where the cantaloupe they purchased is from. ”
Urbina said high-risk individuals for listeriosis are people age 60 and older; those with weakened immune systems from transplants or certain chronic diseases, immunosuppressive therapies or medications; and pregnant women. Healthy adults under age 60 rarely develop this illness.
On Wednesday, Jensen Farms voluntarily recalled its cantaloupe, shipped between July 29 andSept.10,whichwasdistributedtoatleast17stateswithpossiblefurtherdistribution. An FDA news release issued Wednesday night said, although the investigation is ongoing, no other cantaloupe producer has been implicated.
Urbina said, “We commend Jensen Farms for its voluntary recall of its cantaloupe, which certainly was beneficial in helping to reduce further possible infection.
“While most retail establishments already voluntarily removed cantaloupe, our environmental health staff is working with local public health agencies to follow up with retailers, directing them to remove cantaloupe unless it can be confirmed to have come from a grower other than Jensen Farms.”
Although these cantaloupes have been, and are being, removed from commerce, additional infections likely will be reported because it takes an average of three weeks to become ill with listeriosis after eating a contaminated product.
Ten samples collected from cantaloupes identified as being from Jensen Farms all came back positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Several samples matched the lab results of Colorado’s 12 confirmed human cases.
The state health department continues to work with FDA and CDC to determine the source of the cantaloupe contamination.