The Denver Post is reporting that the FDA’s key listeria-outbreak report today will zero in on equipment and conditions inside buildings at Jensen Farms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, raised the death toll from the Colorado cantaloupe illnesses to 25 nationwide, up from 23 last week. The CDC said it has matched 123 cases of patients with the listeria strains isolated at Jensen Farms in southeastern Colorado. Six of the dead are from Colorado, the federal agency said.
Federal and state investigators methodically tested Jensen fields, irrigation systems, packing buildings and other areas after the grower was identified as the sole source of the listeria. The FDA had announced previously that some of its sampling found DNA matches of listeria on packing equipment in a Jensen building.
If the contamination was on equipment that many of the cantaloupes passed through, that would explain the widespread scope of the outbreak. Listeria is present on many farms in soil and in animal feces or fertilizer, and can be tracked or transported into buildings by any number of sources.
The FDA report is expected to include guidelines for the cantaloupe industry to prevent another outbreak. This may include steps like using a clean-room for employees passing from the field into the processing plant and increased screening of machinery for pathogens. This post will be updated once the report is issued.
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