Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dying For a Melon

According to a report in The Guardian, 13 people have died in 8 US states after eating cantaloupes infected with the listeria bacterium.

Here's the interesting part of the article.
Listeria bacteria thrive in low temperatures. Outbreaks are usually associated with deli meats, unpasteurised cheeses and smoked refrigerated seafood.
As I recall, cantaloupe is not a meat or dairy food; it's a fruit. So, why is a fruit infected with this type of bacterium?

The article doesn't shed any light on this issue. My guess is that it has something to do with general factory farming techniques. We have moved so far away from commonsense and organic procedures that, more and more, we are seeing odd outbreaks where they wouldn't normally occur.

Anybody out there have any other ideas about how this could have happened?


  1. I live in Colorado, and grew up not far from Holly, where Jensen Farms grew the melons. While likely not an "organic" grower, Jensen is not a factory farm by any means. It's a local, family farm.

    The going theory for the source of the bacteria is an adjacent farm using biosolids fertilizer (i.e. fertilizer created from human waste as a byproduct sewage treatment). The source of the fertilizer was New York. Improperly treated and/or processed, biosolids can carry many infectious agents, including listeria.

    It is thought that over-spray from the adjacent farm landed on the equipment and produce at Jensen, infecting the cantaloupes.

    Thus, it seems the issue is control of 1) the processing of the fertilizer by a third-party (i.e. biosolids supplier), and 2) control of the application of the fertilizer by the adjancent farm (i.e. not Jensen).

    Oh, and people should wash their produce better.

  2. Thanks for the info. I don't know why I didn't think of cross contamination as a likely source! I'm very, very glad you pointed out that possibility.


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