Thirteen people have died and many more have been sickened by the listeria outbreak. The bacteria has found its way in cantaloupes and experts fear it will only get worse. Earlier this month Jensen Farms out of Colorado issued a voluntary recall of their Rocky Ford-Brand cantaloupes. Last Friday Carol's Cuts, a Kansas based food processor recalled nearly 600 pounds of its cantaloupes and Thursday True Leaf Farms out of California voluntarily recalled bags of chopped lettuce because it had the potential to be infected by listeria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 14 people from Texas have been sickened, two of whom have died.
It started from a farm in Colorado and soon infected people across 18 states.
Listeria, a bacteria normally found in meat and unpasteurized milk and cheese found its way to
cantaloupes. The CDC has yet to announce how the cantaloupe became infected. Susan Morris with the Wichita County Health Department says it's possible the soil was contaminated by the feces of wild animals.
"The listeria could be on the rind of the cantaloupe; therefore, if you don't wash your cantaloupe then that listeria bacteria would be on the meat of your cantaloupe and you would eat it," said Morris.
But even eating it may do little harm. Teressa Stephenson with Preventative Health Services says people with a healthy immune system are rarely affected. Stephenson does says that
pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and people with weak immune systems are the ones who will see the effects of listeria.
"They may have some flu like symptom and then the fever the achiness and then maybe some GI symptoms," she said.
Once infected it can take one day to more than three weeks before someone can die from the bacteria, but there are ways to prevent it.
"It is possible to wash it away and that's what you're doing, you're washing away the bacteria and the dirt and the contamination," said Morris. "That's why you should always wash all your fruits and vegetables before you eat and cook them."
Locally produce suppliers we spoke with in Wichita Falls report that they do not have the Rocky Ford-Brand cantaloupes and the lettuce recall is not shipped to Texas.
To read what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to say click here.
You can also follow our coverage of the outbreak by visiting our website and typing in listeria in the search engine on the top right hand side.