Listeria, a deadly bacterial infection has been blamed for four deaths in Colorado and New Mexico. Health officials believe that cantaloupes are to blame for the outbreak. This is particularly concerning to the farmers in the Colorado region popular for the fruit, reports MSNBC.
There have been 16 other cases linked to the bacteria which causes listeriousis, making this the first Listeria outbreak in the United States linked to cantaloupe. People over the age of 60, those with chronic diseases and compromised immunity, are most likely to be affected by the bacteria, which causes listeriosis, a disease that causes diarrhea, fever, muscle aches. More severe symptoms of the illness includes convulsions, headaches, and loss of balance, reports CBS News.
The cantaloupes in question are from the Rocky Ford region between Colorado and New Mexico and are revered for their distinct sweetness.
However, the farmers in the region don't believe that their fruit is to blame for the outbreak.
Reports CBS News:
"This is really silly," said Kent Lusk, a fifth-generation cantaloupe farmer from Rocky Ford. "I eat those melons every day. You can get Listeria anyplace."
The fact is, the contamination can have come from anywhere, such as a truck transporting the fruit.
Listeria is a germ that can be found naturally in soil and water and is often carried by animals. Listeria can also be found in many raw foods, including meat, soft cheese, and smoked seafood. However, cooking and pasteurizing can easily kill the germs.
Several grocery stores carrying the fruit have pulled it from their shelves. In New Mexico, a voluntary recall has been issued, reports CBS News.
The FDA has issued a warning, advising people to check where their cantaloupe is from before eating it, especially if they're from the high-risk group, however it hasn't officially mandated a recall of the fruit.
In the United States, listeriosis affects about 1,600 people to get sick and kills about 260 people annually.