Over at Outbreak Database, we have been keeping track of foodborne illness outbreaks – small and large – over the last 12 months.  Here are some of the more interesting Listeria, Campylobacter and Botulism Outbreaks:

Utah State Prison Pruno October 2011 – 12 Ill.  Inmates of a Utah State Prison developed botulism after drinking pruno. Pruno is a drink made from various fruit, potato, bread, water, table scraps, and sugar, which are then fermented to make alcohol. Making pruno in prison is a violation of prison rules. Most illnesses began on October 1. The last illness began on October 3. Health officials planned to test pruno samples to pinpoint the specific source. Three of the twelve who became ill were critically ill.

Jensen Farms Rocky Ford Cantaloupe October 2011 – 146 Ill.  A multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes was associated with consumption of cantaloupe that had been grown in the Rocky Ford region of Colorado and shipped by Jensen Farms. As of December 8, 2011, a total of 146 persons had been reported to the CDC and were infected with at least one of the four outbreak associated strains. Thirty persons died, and one pregnant woman miscarried her pregnancy. Among persons for whom information is available, reported illness onset ranged from July 31, 2011 through October 27, 2011. Ages of ill persons ranged from less than 1 year of age to 96 years, with the median age of 77 years old. Most ill persons were over 60 years old or had health conditions that weakened their immune systems. Seven of the illnesses were related to pregnancy (three newborns; four pregnant women). Among the 144 ill persons with available information on whether they were hospitalized, 142(99%) were hospitalized. Among the 140 ill persons with available information on what they ate, 131 (94%) reported consuming cantaloupes in the month before illness onset. Several ill persons remembered the type of cantaloupe they had eaten and said they were Rocky Ford cantaloupes, which are grown in the Rocky Ford region of southeastern Colorado. Source tracing of the cantaloupes indicated that they came from Jensen Farms, and were marketed as being from the Rocky Ford region. These cantaloupes were shipped between July 29 through September 10 to at least 24 states with possible further distribution. Laboratory testing by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified Listeria monocytogenes bacteria on cantaloupes collected from grocery stores and from ill persons’ homes. Laboratory testing by FDA has identified L. monocytogenes matching outbreak strains in samples from equipment and cantaloupe at the Jensen Farms’ packing facility in Granada, Colorado. The FDA identified several factors at the packing plant that likely contributed to the introduction, spread, and growth of Listeria monocytogenes in the cantaloupe. This outbreak had several unusual features. This was the first listeriosis outbreak associated with melon. Four widely differing pulse field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern combinations and two serotypes (1/2a and 1/2b) were associated with the outbreak. This outbreak was unusually large and resulted in the highest number of deaths of any U.S. foodborne outbreak since a listeriosis outbreak in 1998(See Bil Mar Foods Ready-to-eat Meats 1998).

Jerry Dell Farm Unpasteurized, Raw Milk September 2011 – 2 Ill.  At least two people became ill due to Campylobacteriosis after drinking raw milk. Jerry Dell Farm in Freeville, New York had produced the milk. The farm had an agricultural permit to sell raw milk at the farm. The milk was confirmed to be contaminated with Campylobacter.

Matanuska-Suisitna Valley Cow Share Program Raw Milk May 2011 – 18 Ill.  An outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni was linked to the consumption of raw milk obtained through a cow share program in southeast Alaska. In Alaska, regulations did not allow the sale of raw milk; however owning shares of a cow to obtain milk was permissible. Campylobacter was not isolated from milk, but was isolated from manure samples collected at the dairy farm. Coincidentally Listeria was isolated, but no human illness had been attributed to this pathogen.