September 22, 2011 / 11:17 PM / 8 years ago

Five more states had Listeria-tainted cantaloupes, FDA says

DENVER (Reuters) - Listeria-tainted cantaloupes were shipped to five more states than was previously known, bringing to 22 the total number of states affected by an outbreak that killed eight people, the FDA said on Thursday.

So far, a total of 55 people in 10 states have been infected from the tainted cantaloupe, with the highest number of patients seen in Colorado where the fruits were grown, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Not all the states that received shipments of the fruits appear to have seen infections.

Officials have traced the outbreak to cantaloupe grown at Colorado-based Jensen Farms Inc and sold under the brand name Rocky Ford. The company has voluntarily recalled its cantaloupe shipped between July 29 and September 10, the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

This is the deadliest U.S. outbreak since a number of salmonella infections killed nine people in 2008 and 2009, Russell said.

The number of Listeria infections from the food-borne illness could easily rise, said Lola Russell, spokeswoman for the CDC.

“We could see more because it can be in a person’s system for up to two months before it presents itself,” she told Reuters.

The Food and Drug Administration last week identified 17 states affected by the outbreak.

But on Thursday, the agency said 22 states were affected. The additional states were: Arkansas, California, Idaho, Ohio and Oklahoma, the FDA said.

Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterial strain found in the tainted cantaloupe, thrives at low temperatures, the CDC said on its website.

Infection can be particularly dangerous for elderly people, pregnant women and patients with weakened immune systems, health officials said.

Russell said it is unusual for Listeria outbreaks to be linked to fresh produce, and often deli meats are the culprit. This is the first outbreak traced to cantaloupes, she said.

Previous Listeria outbreaks linked to produce were traced to sprouts and celery.

Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Jerry Norton

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