• Posted: September 14th, 2011 - 6:08am by Doug Powell

    The director of the Farm Service Agency in Otero and Crowley counties told the Peublo Chieftain an ongoing investigation into ties to a listeria outbreak and Rocky Ford cantaloupes will show that the contamination did not come from the Lower Arkansas Valley.

    Chuck Hanagan said, "Everybody eats this (Rocky Ford) cantaloupe. Heck, the field workers that are picking it and all the farmers are eating it every day. If it's contaminated here, why isn't anyone sick here?" he asked. "It doesn't make sense to me. … Somebody in the handling system may be to blame. They may be putting it in contaminated trucks, unloading it in a warehouse with contaminated handling . . . There are several other ways it could be contaminated on that other end.”

    Mike Bartolo, an extension agent for Colorado State University, said the state health department's focus on Rocky Ford is like "a dagger through the heart" for the agricultural area, which has a melon as its mascot.

    Farmers are convinced the listeria problem is in warehousing, trucking or other distribution areas, Bartolo said, because melons are cooled and washed in a chlorine bath before shipping. Listeria occurs naturally in many soil conditions, and growing and production methods are in place to keep contamination out of the food chain, he said.

    The growers are frustrated with the state health department announcements that seemed like an "undiscriminating nuclear bomb" rather than zeroing in on a specific problem, he added.

    State health officials said they are working with federal health agencies to test all possible contact points for the melons, including distribution centers and the farms.

    In July and August 1991, more than 400 people in the western U.S. were sickened by salmonella poisoning that was traced to cantaloupes and melon growers throughout the West paid the price.

    "I remember there were a number of farmers who lost their melon crops over that scare," recalled Frank Sobolik, the former Colorado State University Extension Agent for Pueblo County. "That time, the suspicion was the tainted melons were coming up from West Texas."

    Dr. Lawrence Goodridge, a food biologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins (left, sorta as shown), said contamination investigations can end that way — a dead end that just points towards a general region. That's what happened in the summer of 1991. The hunt for the salmonella-tainted melon source ended without finding the source. All the evidence was either eaten or thrown away.

    A table of cantaloupe- (or rock melon) related outbreaks is available at


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  • Posted: September 13th, 2011 - 10:55pm by Doug Powell

     Fine Mexican Food Products, Inc. (FMP), located in the City of Ontario in California, is recalling 1,423 Cases of 12/2 lb. Frozen Avocado Pulp and 1,820 Cases IQF 8/3 lb. IQF Avocado Halves as distributed since June/2010 because of the possibility to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

    Frozen avocado pulp and IQF avocado halves were distributed to distributors in California since June 2010.

    These 2 products are identified as FMP white label on the corrugated shipping carton and pack size is 2.2 lb. /bag 12 per shipping carton and Product code 00115 for Frozen Avocado Pulp.

    Pack size is 3 lb. /bag 8 bags per shipping carton and Product Code 00131 for 3 lb. IQF Avocado Halves respectively with expiration dates of June/July/August 2012.

    There have been no reports of illness related to the products.

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  • Posted: September 13th, 2011 - 9:12pm by Doug Powell

    At least 15 people have been infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes in Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, in what officials are calling the first listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe in the U.S.

    State and local public health officials have interviewed most of the patients and discovered that the majority of them consumed whole cantaloupes, most likely marketed from the Rocky Ford growing region of Colorado.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports laboratory testing by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified Listeria monocytogenes bacteria on cantaloupe collected from grocery stores and from an ill person’s home. Product traceback information from Colorado State officials indicated these cantaloupes were harvested in the Rocky Ford region. FDA is working closely with CDC, the firms involved, and public health authorities in states where illnesses occurred to determine the exact source of contamination.

    Kent Lusk, a fifth-generation cantaloupe farmer from Rocky Ford, told USA Today, "This is really silly. You can get Listeria any place. I eat those melons every day."

    Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar said it might not be the cantaloupes, but a contaminated truck or other source. He said no recalls have been issued, but several Colorado grocery chains pulled their supplies as a precaution.

    Rocky Ford cantaloupes are famous throughout the country, drawing travelers to roadside stands. Piles of the coveted melons are featured on postcards. W.C. Fields reportedly said bald guys have "a head shaped like a Rocky Ford cantaloupe," and Lucile Ball had the melons delivered to her dressing room.

    Dr. Lawrence Goodridge, a food and biology professor at CSU, told The Pueblo Chieftain, "Listeria occurs naturally everywhere, but this is the first time we've ever seen an outbreak of foodborne illness in cantaloupe."

    Guelph-grad Larry (left, pretty much as shown) probably meant to say an outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe because there have been lots of outbreaks on cantaloupe (see the table at

    "My gut hunch is that when all this over, we're going to find something has changed in the conditions because listeria is common in the soil but this time, it's apparently migrated into melons."

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  • Posted: September 13th, 2011 - 12:22am by Doug Powell

    Colorado health-types said today that the cantaloupe suspected in a listeria outbreak that has sickened at least 11 in Colorado, two in Texas and one in Nebraska and killed one, was grown in the Rocky Ford region of Colorado.

    Dr. Chris Urbina, chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said people at high risk for infection should avoid consuming cantaloupe, including people over 60, people with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women.

    New Mexico health officials also said today three people have died and six others are ill with listeria that preliminary testing has linked to contaminated cantaloupe.

    Molecular fingerprinting tests at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are under way to determine if the cases are part of the same outbreak.

    What isn’t clear from reports to date is whether the culprit is whole cantaloupe or fresh-cut – the stuff in the plastic containers at retail. Or maybe I missed something.

    A table of cantaloupe- (or rock melon) related outbreaks is available at

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  • Posted: September 9th, 2011 - 5:58pm by Doug Powell

     All the warnings about the usual listeria suspects – deli meats, soft cheeses, unpasteurized milk – apparently didn’t help contain the listeria outbreak in Colorado: cantaloupe has been identified as the "likely source" of what is now a multi-state listeria outbreak.

    The Denver Post reports that nine listeria cases in Colorado have been linked to a multi-state outbreak, which includes potentially related cases in Texas and Nebraska, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

    Two people in Colorado died from listeriosis, but only one of those two cases has been linked to the multi-state outbreak.

    All nine of Colorado's confirmed linked cases consumed cantaloupe, the release said. No specific source of the contaminated product has been identified.

    "While the investigation into the source of the listeria outbreak is continuing, it is prudent for people who are at high risk for listeria infection to avoid consumption of cantaloupe," said Dr. Chris Urbina, chief medical officer with the state health department.

    A table of cantaloupe- (or rock melon) related outbreaks is available at


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  • Posted: September 7th, 2011 - 7:55pm by Doug Powell

     An apparent outbreak of listeria in Colorado grew to 13 cases over the weekend, including two deaths since Aug. 1.

    The Denver Post reports in an earlier outbreak, in June, two people diagnosed with the infection died.

    Has DNA fingerprinting linked the June cases with the ost recent outbreak?

    The cause of the most recent outbreak is still under investigation and there is no clear link between the cases, said Mark Salley, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Safety.

    Colorado averages about 10 cases of listeria per year.

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  • Posted: September 2nd, 2011 - 6:04pm by Doug Powell

    State health department officials are worried about a sudden listeria outbreak in late August and have renewed warnings about eating soft cheeses, meat spreads, undercooked hot dogs and other potentially dangerous foods.

    Two people have died from the latest outbreak of the gastrointestinal illness that began in August. The department reported in June that two other people had died in a previous listeria outbreak, bringing the total of deaths this summer to four.

    The two August deaths came amid a rush of nine cases, compared to an average of two cases reported for the month in other years. Seven of the nine newest listeria illnesses have been reported since Aug. 29.

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  • Posted: June 22nd, 2011 - 4:37pm by Doug Powell

    The Daily Mail reports a father-of-two today told how he almost died after eating an under-cooked pork chop.

    Darren Ashall, a plant operator from Chorley, Lancashire, developed a potentially lethal brain bug that has left him in hospital for nearly five months.

    The 46-year-old cannot walk and still struggles to communicate. However, doctors told him he is lucky to be alive after listeria meningitis attacked his immune system and left an abscess on his brain.

    He first fell ill after cooking two pork chops on a caravan stove while working away from home in Birmingham.

    “I thought one of the chops wasn't cooked properly. I regretted eating it straight away. I knew it was a mistake. A month later I went to hospital thinking I was having a heart attack. After three days, my face started drooping on one side and people thought I was having a stroke.”

    Darren had picked up the listeria bug, which can lay dormant for up to 70 days.

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  • Posted: May 22nd, 2011 - 11:32am by Doug Powell

    In Aug. 2009, two pregnant women in Australia gave birth prematurely and seven others were confirmed sick with listeriosis after eating contaminated chicken wraps that were sold to thousands on Virgin Blue flights from Brisbane and the Gold Coast, triggering a national public health alert.

    From the outset, Virgin Blue has blamed suppliers.

    On Friday, one of those pregnant women, Renee Cherry, launched legal action in the Supreme Court on behalf of her son Zayd Fokeera, now aged almost two, seeking compensation from Virgin Australia.

    According to a statement of claim, a pregnant Ms Cherry flew from Townsville to Brisbane, then from Brisbane to Melbourne, on May 23, 2009.

    During the flight, it is claimed, Ms Cherry bought a chicken roll from flight attendants, and she suffered listeria poisoning as a result.

    "The roll was tainted and not fit for human consumption, as it contained listeria bacteria," according to the statement of claim.

    "The listeria bacteria poisoned the blood of the plaintiff's mother and the plaintiff and caused him to suffer injury."

    Zayd was born two months after the flight, suffering from listeriosis, gastro-intestinal injury, developmental delay, and anxiety.

    There is a claim for medical expenses and loss of prospective income and earning capacity, as well as damages. A trial before a judge and jury is sought.

    A Virgin spokesman said the writ had not been served on the airline, and it could not comment because it had not seen the details of the claim.

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  • Posted: May 11th, 2011 - 6:14am by Doug Powell

    Goodness Gardens, Inc. of New Hampton, NY is voluntarily recalling Chives Lot # 0201111, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

    The Chives were distributed in NY, NJ, CT, MA, PA, MD, AL, IL, and VA through retail stores primarily and one wholesaler in PA.

    The Chives were distributed in various plastic clamshell containers: 0.25 oz. (UPC 0 21985 20005 6),2/3 oz. (UPC 0 21985 10004 2), in 1 lb. bags, and 1⁄2 oz. twist tie bunches.

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