EL PASO, Texas - Due to a recent multistate outbreak of listeriosis, the city of El Paso Department of Public Health is urging members of the community to take extra precautions when handling cantaloupes.
Although the outbreak originated in Colorado, the fruit was shipped to at least 17 states, including Texas. A local store manager said he purchases his cantaloupes from California and Arizona, places where the crops aren't contaminated. Local supermarket customer, Elizabeth Cohen, said she'd rather not take the chance.
"You can't be 100 percent," insisted Cohen. "It's a fresh fruit, and I've gotten sick on fruits and vegetables in the past, violently so, to the point of having to go to the hospital, so I would probably be deterred from it. I don't think I'll be buying cantaloupes for now."
A spokesman for the El Paso Department of Health said no local cases of listeria have been reported so far.
Federal health authorities confirmed that four people have died in an outbreak of listeria traced to Colorado cantaloupes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday one death occurred in Colorado, one in Oklahoma and two in New Mexico.
The Food and Drug Administration announced a voluntary recall of Rocky Ford cantaloupe shipped by Jensen Farms because of the potential of contamination. The fruit was shipped to at least 17 states, including Texas, from July 29 through Sept. 10.
Anyone who has a cantaloupe from Jensen Farms is advised to dispose of it in a closed plastic bag inside a sealed trash can to prevent people or animals from eating it.
Cantaloupes included in the recall can be identified with either 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."
Even if someone has eaten the cantaloupe without becoming ill, the rest of the cantaloupe should be disposed of immediately. Listeria bacteria can grow in the cantaloupe at room and refrigerator temperatures. If you cannot determine the origin of a cantaloupe you have, you are asked to contact the store where it was purchased for this information.
For melons that are not part of this recall, the CDC recommend the following tips:
? Consumers and food preparers should wash their hands before and after handling any whole melon, such as cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew. ? Wash the melons 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. ? Cut melons left at room temperature for more than 4 hours should be discarded.
Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Symptoms include fever and muscle aches. Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups, including older adults, people with compromised immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as cancer), and unborn babies and newborns. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and serious illness or death in newborn babies, though the mother herself rarely becomes seriously ill.
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