Protect Your Family From
Listeria-Tainted Cantaloupe

An AAHPO Medical Alert



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Lawrence V. Najarian, MD,President

Ted Chaglassian, MD, Past President

Arthur Kubikian, DDS
Vice President

Knarig Khatchadurian, PhD Corresponding Secretary

Tsoline Kojaoghlanian, MD
Recording Secretary

Garbis Baydar, MD

Edmund L. Gergerian, MD

Louiza Puskulian-Kubikian, DDS
Membership Committee

Khoren Nalbandian, RPh
Aram Cazazian, DDS
Vicken Pamoukian, MD
Terenig Terjanian, MD
Raffy Hovanessian, MD
Kim Arzoumanian, PhD  



Families are facing a serious health threat from a food they usually regard as healthy: Cantaloupe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that 72 illnesses, including 13 deaths, from listeria infections have been traced to cantaloupes grown in Colorado and shipped to 18 other states, including New York and New Jersey.

What is listeria, and what illnesses does it cause? How can
we protect our families from this food-borne infection? Fortunately, we have infectious disease specialists
Tsoline Kojaoghlanian, MD and Mihran Seferian, MD to help
us sort it out.

Listeria is a bacterium that generally only sickens the elderly, newborns, pregnant women and others with compromised immune systems. Most healthy adults can consume listeria without any ill effects.

The median age of those recently sickened is 78. One in five who contract the disease can die.

It is anticipated that the number of illnesses and deaths will probably grow in coming weeks because the symptoms of listeria don't always show up right away. It can take four weeks or more for a person to fall ill after eating food contaminated with listeria.

What To Do

  1. Discard any cantaloupes labeled Colorado Grown, Distributed by Frontera Produce, Jensen Rarms or Sweet Rocky Fords.
  2. Not all of the recalled cantaloupes are labeled with a sticker, so unless you are certain of the source of the fruit, it is safest to avoid eating unlabeled cantaloupe for now.
  3. Sanitize any surfaces the cantaloupe has touched, including the refrigerator.
  4. Be observant of these symptoms: fever and muscle aches, often with gastrointestinal symptoms. Victims may become incapacitated and unable to speak. Immediately seek medical attention for anyone who shows these symptoms.
  5. Always practice safe food handling in your kitchen to prevent the spread of food-borne illness.

What Else You Should Know

  1. Listeria bacteria can grow at room temperatures and even at refrigerated temperatures.
  2. About 800 cases of listeria are found in the United States each year, according to CDC, and there usually are three or four outbreaks. Most of these are traced to deli meat and soft cheeses, where listeria is most common.
  3. Produce is rarely been the culprit, but federal investigators say they have seen more produce-related listeria illnesses in the past two years. It was found in sprouts in 2009 and celery in 2010.
  4. Listeria is more deadly than well-known pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, although those pathogens cause more illnesses.

More information about listeriosis and recommendations to reduce the risk of getting listeriosis from food are available at CDC’s Listeriosis webpage.

Visit the FDA website to read the "Consumer Safety Information on the Recalled Whole Cantaloupes by Jensen Farms".

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