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Listeria outbreak in cantaloupe deadliest in 25 plus years

October 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The death toll from an outbreak of listeria linked to cantaloupe has risen to 23, making it the deadliest known outbreak of foodborne illness in the United States in more than 25 years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that 116 people have been sickened in the outbreak.

The number of deaths has now surpassed a 1998 outbreak of listeria in processed meats that was linked to 21 deaths. A 1985 listeria outbreak in Mexican-style soft cheeses killed 52 people.

The tainted Colorado cantaloupes were recalled last month and should all be off store shelves by now.

Health experts said the number of deaths could grow as the symptoms of listeria can take up to two months to appear.

The CDC on Wednesday confirmed two more deaths in Louisiana that the state had said it was investigating last week. Other deaths have been reported in Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. Colorado and New Mexico reported five deaths each.

Jensen Farms in Holly, Colo. recalled the tainted cantaloupes Sept. 14.

The company said it shipped the cantaloupes to about half the states, but it wasn't sure where the cantaloupes went because they have been sold and resold. Thus, many companies may not even know whether they bought or distributed the fruit.

The FDA is still investigating the cause of the outbreak.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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