Standing Water, Contaminated Equipment Likely Culprits in Listeria Outbreak

Standing water on the floor of the Jensen Farms cantaloupe packing facility and used equipment that was hard to clean were likely breeding grounds for Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria responsible for the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in almost three decades, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Wednesday. The cantaloupe Listeria outbreak, which has swept through 26 states, has killed 25 people, caused one miscarriage and stricken more than 100 others. In a six-page report released October 19, the FDA outlines the factors that most likely contributed to the introduction, spread, and growth of Listeria on cantaloupes. Introduction of the bacteria occurred in two possible ways, according to the report, either low levels of the bacteria existed in the fields where the melons were grown, or it was carried in on a truck. From there, it spread and grew easily in the unsanitary conditions found on the farm including: A packing facility design that allowed water to pool on the floor near equipment and employee walkways; A packing facility floor that was constructed in a manner that made it difficult to clean Used packing equipment that was not easily cleaned and sanitized; Lack of pre-cooling step to remove field heat from the cantaloupes before cold storage. As the cantaloupes cooled, there may have been condensation that promoted the growth of Listeria. Listeria can grow and thrive in refrigerated conditions and is killed only by cooking or pasteurization. Consumption of foods contaminated with Listeria can caused serious, sometimes, fatal illness. It is especially danegrous to children, the elderly and pregnant women. If you have legal questions about a case related to this outbreak, contact the Listeria experts at the law firm of PritzkerOlsen P.A., for a free consultation.

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