The FDA and CDC are warning about a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis, a rare and serious illness caused by food contaminated with the bacteria Listeria. Listeria tends to haunt poultry, cattle, raw milk and processed meats, but in this case, the suspected culprits are cantaloupes from Colorado. As of this morning, at least 27 people in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Indiana, Nebraska and Oklahoma had been infected, with four deaths. An FDA and CDC investigation is underway.
Symptoms of listeriosis: Fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms, stiff neck, weakness, vomiting
Risks: Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in high-risk groups like seniors, cancer patients and those with compromised immune systems. It’s also especially dangerous for pregnant women, causing miscarriage, stillbirth and serious illness in newborn babies even when the mother shows no symptoms herself.
Protect yourself: For now, the FDA is warning everyone to avoid cantaloupes from the Rocky Ford region of Colorado and New Mexico, and high-risk groups to avoid the melons altogether. It recommends sealing cantaloupes in a plastic bag before throwing them out, too.
According to the CDC, the typical foods associated with listeriosis outbreaks have been deli meats, hot dogs, and soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. Produce is not often generally a source, but sprouts caused an outbreak in 2009, and celery caused an outbreak in 2010. For more information on the illness, see the CDC’s listeriosis page.
The Ontario, California manufacturer and distributor of avocado products has also recently recalled products due to Listeria concerns, though no cases of listeriosis associated with these products has been reported. Last year, the New York Times reported on rampant listeria contamination in artisan cheeses.