This time last year, the CDC and FDA were warning consumers to avoid cantaloupes (specifically, Colorado cantaloupes) like the plague–because they were plagued. 2011′s deadly listeria outbreak claimed 30 lives, sickened people across the country, and cost farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars. But now, the AP is reporting, Colorado cantaloupes are finally back on shelves, and safe to eat.
While plenty of other smaller listeria outbreaks have come and gone (like the one in October that impacted lettuce), few have left as lasting an impression or resulted in as many illnesses as the case of the Colorado cantaloupe.
Traced back to a farm in Jensen Farms, the outbreak shocked both farmers and food safety advocates–listeria is rarely seen in produce, and is most often associated with deli meats and unpasteurized cheese–who eventually found the source of the contamination: Dirty water on the floor of a packing facility.
This year, the AP is reporting, many farmers have fallen away, opting instead to grow crops which are less associated with disease. But the growers at Jensen Farms and the surrounding areas have spent big bucks to upgrade their facilities, ensuring that all fruits will be washed and sanitized before coming in contact with produce from other farms, or the consumer.
Listeria poisoning, which is called listeriosis, can be fatal in high-risk groups (like senior citizens and children), and has many of the same initial symptoms as other forms of food poisoning, like salmonella. But unlike other foodborne illness, listeriosis is especially risky for pregnant women, and can lead to complications and even stillbirth.
But now, after reevaluating the way they do business, Colorado’s cantaloupe growers are back in the game, with produce on grocery store shelves and an eye on safety. Which is great news for the farmers, and for fruit-lovers across the country. This weekend, do the growers a solid–and show them that their hard work was worth it–and consider scooping up a fresh, safe Colorado cantaloupe.
Image: shadow216 via Shutterstock