In late September, two brothers who operated a family farm in Colorado were arrested and charged with introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. The cantaloupes produced by their farm caused one of the largest contaminated food outbreaks in American history in 2011. Their arrest and news of another outbreak raises questions about the safety of our food supply.
Cantaloupes produced by Jenson Farms in Colorado were ultimately associated with illness suffered by 147 people. Of those sickened, 33 people died in a 28-state area and one pregnant woman miscarried her baby. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate 1,600 people are made ill by listeria each year and approximately 260 die.
Of particular risk are the following groups of people:
- Pregnant women
- The elderly and the very young
- Anyone with a compromised immune system
Upon investigation, Jenson Farms was found to use antiquated, difficult to clean equipment and allowed water to pool in an area where cantaloupes were stored.
In September of this year, consumers were alerted to another multi-state outbreak of listeria-contaminated food products, this time in cheese made by a Wisconsin cheese producer. Now considered over, the outbreak took the life of one person, caused a pregnant woman to miscarry and sickened five other people.
It is difficult to identify contaminated produce in a grocery store. The CDC recommends the following steps for avoiding foodborne contaminants:
- Rinse and scrub melons and vegetables before slicing
- Dry produce before preparation
- Keep uncooked meat and poultry away from vegetable and other food items
- Use separate cutting boards for meat and produce, clean all boards in hot, soapy water
The term buyer beware has never been more important. If sickened by contaminated food from a grocery or restaurant in North Carolina, seek medical care and talk to a reputable personal injury attorney.