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Consumer group urges quick FDA action on deadly cantaloupe outbreak

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September 30, 2011

Contact: NCL Communications, (202) 835-3323, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Washington, DC- The National Consumers League is calling on the FDA to act swiftly to warn consumers about deadly cantaloupes and speed the release of guidelines and regulations regarding the safe production of produce.  A recent deadly outbreak of listeria – a foodborne pathogen – has been linked to the “Rocky Ford” brand coming from Jensen Farms in Colorado. The root cause of the contamination has not yet been determined.

“This is a deadly outbreak that has already killed 13 and sickened 72 people. The FDA must act immediately to alert consumers and get these cantaloupes out of our food supply,” said Teresa Green, NCL’s food safety expert. “We have no time to waste.”

The cantaloupes are contaminated with the pathogen Listeria monocytogene, a serious and sometimes lethal foodborne illness. The elderly, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women and their babies are especially vulnerable to infection.  Listeria monocytogene has a mortality rate of 16 percent.

Jensen Farm cantaloupes were recalled on September 14, 2011 and FDA is working with state and local partners to ensure that all contaminated melons are removed from commerce. Nevertheless, due to listeria’s long incubation period, which ranges from two weeks to two months, new cases may continue to arise.

“NCL urges consumers to check with their supermarkets to learn whether their cantaloupes are from Jensen Farms. We also urge restaurants and stores with salad bars or otherwise selling cantaloupes to ensure that they are not serving the melons from Jensen Farms,” said Green.

“Consumers, restaurants or anyone else serving cantaloupe must check to see where the fruit came from. If they discover they have Jensen Farms’ melons, dispose of them immediately.”

NCL also urges consumers to thoroughly clean and sanitize any kitchen and refrigerator surfaces that might have come into contact with infected melon.  Any other food that may have come into contact with a contaminated cantaloupe should also be disposed of.  Consumers should be aware that the cold temperatures of a refrigerator do not kill listeria.

In light of this outbreak and the devastating toll it has taken, the National Consumers League urges FDA to speed up the release of guidelines and regulations for the safe production of cantaloupe and other produce.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.