BATON ROUGE - The Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) is investigating the death of an 81-year-old woman who died in a Shreveport hospital and had listeria. LDH epidemiologists have determined the listeria she had is the same strain that was found in the recalled cantaloupes produced by Jensen Farms in Colorado. Cantaloupe was found in the woman's refrigerator, but her relatives have told epidemiologists they are unsure whether she had eaten it.
LDH is still investigating the listeria-linked death last weekend from Baton Rouge to determine whether the strain of listeria she had could be connected to recalled cantaloupe.
On Sept. 14, Jensen Farms issued a voluntary recall of its Rocky Ford brand whole cantaloupes in 17 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. Jensen farms issued a news release Sept. 27 indicating that Louisiana, Indiana and Wisconsin were part of the Sept. 14 recall and that retailers that received the cantaloupes from Jensen Farms were notified on the same day and product was pulled from the shelves. Jensen Farms says it stopped shipping cantaloupes on Sept. 10. LDH was notified on Sept. 30 that Louisiana was included in the recall.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of another Louisiana resident that might be due to listeria," said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, Louisiana State Health Officer. "This woman was hospitalized shortly after the initial recall was issued, which supports the importance of knowing the risk of eating contaminated food. It is important that people who fit the criteria for being at risk for recalled cantaloupe talk to their physician if they have any symptoms so they can be treated earlier."
Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease primarily affects older adults, persons with weakened immune systems or chronic illnesses, pregnant women and newborns. Healthy adults and children occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill. If you ate cantaloupe in the past 3 weeks and are in one of the high-risk groups and you are feeling sick, with fever, muscle aches, nausea or diarrhea, consult your physician.
The important thing for consumers to know, and the only way to determine if they have the recalled product, is to check the stickers on the whole cantaloupe. The recalled whole cantaloupes have a green and white sticker that reads: Product of USA- Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford- Cantaloupe or a gray, yellow, and green sticker that reads: Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords. If it does not have a sticker, consumers should contact the store from which it was purchased to determine the source.
Cantaloupes that are known to NOT have come from Jensen Farms are safe to eat. If consumers are uncertain about the source of a cantaloupe they are purchasing or have purchased, they should ask the grocery store. A cantaloupe purchased from an unknown source should be discarded: "when in doubt, throw it out."
Consumers should also take the following precautions when handling produce:
- Wash their hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling any whole melon, such as cantaloupe, watermelon or honeydew;
- Scrub the surface of melons, such as cantaloupes, with a clean produce brush and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting;
- Cut melon should be promptly consumed or refrigerated at or less than 40 degrees F (32-34 degrees F is best) for no more than 7 days; and
- Cut melons left at room temperature for more than four hours should be discarded.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.