Three deaths from a listeria outbreak in six states prompted health officials to warn high-risk consumers to avoid purchasing cantaloupes produced from the Rocky Ford region of Colorado where farmers are recalling the potentially dangerous fruit.
The outbreak has caused one death in Colorado - where the cantaloupes are farmed - and three deaths in New Mexico. At least 11 cases of Listeria illness have been reported in Colorado, with 10 in New Mexico, two in Texas, and one each in Indiana, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.
The deadly New Mexico cases included a 93-year-old man, a 61-year-old woman, and a 63-year-old man. The person who died in Colorado was not identified.
Listeria, is a bacteria that can cause food poisoning. The bacteria can lead to listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating contaminated food.
Pregnant women are at high risk for listeriosis as infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. Others at risk are those with weakened immune system and adults over 60.
Symptoms to look out for are fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
"People at high risk for Listeria infection should not eat cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford growing region," said Dr. Chris Urbina, chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in a release. "The department expects additional test results later this week that may help identify the specific source of the cantaloupe linked to the multistate outbreak."
According to state health, Rocky Ford cantaloupes were distributed from Colorado to various grocery stores in Texas and other states. The recall covers cantaloupes sold this past summer between July 29 and Sept. 10.
Additionally, the CDC advised consumers on its website to dispose of cantaloupes marketed as coming from the Rocky Ford region, to set refrigerators to 40 degrees F or below and freezers to 0 degrees F or below, and to rinse raw produce under running tap water before eating it.
This is the first Listeria outbreak in the U.S. linked to cantaloupe but not the first time cantaloupes were in question. In March of this year, Del Monte, a major seller of cantaloupe in the United States, sued the FDA and the state of Oregon over a cantaloupe recall.
During the same month, the company then voluntarily recalled 4,992 cartons of cantaloupes, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella Panama, according to the CDC.