Jensen Farms cantaloupe recall

Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)September 16, 2011

Google search of topic header.

There is plenty of news that this DID happen but no mention of HOW. I don't understand how listeria bacteria can get into a cantaloupe. What are the risks to the person who sows seeds and then lets nature take its' course? How can this happen with organic practices?

I hate the way the tv news has covered this story. Was it just coincidence that these cantaloupes came from an organic farm or did they do something incorrectly? Trying to wrap my mind around this and want to know if it "could happen to me?"

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rosiew

purple, I googled Jensen Farms cantaloupe recall. Lots of press, and I've linked one below.

I'm not a televiewer, hadn't heard about this. Tragic. Will admit I have never washed a cantaloupe before cutting. Never occurred to me.

Rosie

Here is a link that might be useful: Jensen Farms cantaloupe recall

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 2:27PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Thanks for your response. I didn't see anything in the linked article or hear anything on the news about why this happened or that not washing the fruits was the issue.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 3:19PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The bacteria can be found naturally in the soil, and also in manure. It can be in the water supply if manure is part of the run-off. Any raw food can carry living listeria bacteria and it's ONE of the reasons why washing all raw veggies is so important. Listeria is why raw meat should be handled with care to avoid cross contamination, and why it should be cooked to a certain temperature. Cheeses made from unpasteurized milk should be avoided if you're in one of the high risk groups.

I always practice good 'raw food hygiene' but I'm not going to give up my weekly fix of bagels and LOX! Nope.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 3:57PM
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lazy_gardens

I don't understand how listeria bacteria can get into a cantaloupe. Listeria is a free-living bacteria that can be found in dirt. What is CRITICAL is that Listeria can GROW at refrigerator temps, so if there were a few on the skin of the canteloupe, cutting it could spread them to the interior and they would multiply in the frig.

What are the risks to the person who sows seeds and then lets nature take its course? Depends on your fertilizing, growing and food-handling practices.

How can this happen with organic practices? Just like with non-organic ... maybe even higher risk if you use animal feces as fertilizer.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2011 at 11:02PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

The spores of Listeria, Salmonella, E-Coli and others can be on the fruits outside and get onto the edible portion when you cut the fruit. I can remember being advised to always wash the fruits and vegetables when I was a teenager in the 1950's, for this and other reasons.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 6:35AM
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Mindyw3(5)

Isn't cantalope one of the foods ghastly can get interior contamination also? I know lettuces and tomatoes can both uptake some bacteria to where washing would have no benefit.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 1:04PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Which bacteria?...and what is the source of your "knowing"?

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 3:12PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Any of the disease pathogens that does get on the food we eat can be washed off or killed during cooking if that food is heated high enough long enough. Some peole equate any bacteria with disease pathogens which is not at all true. We need bacteria to live, plants need bacteria to live, the soils we walk on and grow our plants in need bacteria to function properly. There are some few bacteria that can make us sick, disease pathogens, along with some few viruses.
Those disease pathogens do not get inside the food we eat unless we mishandle those foods and move them into the food as we process them.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 7:10AM
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maplerbirch(4)

Speaking of 'washing will not do it', I remember the lettuce e-coli episode, maybe 7-8 years ago, and I heard a reporter say that the e-coli had gone "Systemic", so washing the lettuce would not do any good.

It took me a year to find out what the reporter meant by "Systemic", because I always thought of the word as meaning, something moving throughout the system of a living growing plant. :)

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 8:11AM
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Mindyw3(5)

Maple:there are some articles and research on that and that's what I was talking about. The bacteria was actually inside the leaves, ethos washing wouldn't remove it anyway. They tested a few other plants and found a couple more could also uptake pathogens systemically through the soil or blossom.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 12:51PM
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Mindyw3(5)

Maple:there are some articles and research on that and that's what I was talking about. The bacteria was actually inside the leaves, ethos washing wouldn't remove it anyway. They tested a few other plants and found a couple more could also uptake pathogens systemically through the soil or blossom.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 4:38PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Maple and Mindy can you cite those articles. I have not seen anything, from reputable sources, to support the idea that disease pathogens can get inside produce. There were some stories by John Stoessell on ABC News, proven to be very bad reporting, totally disregarding facts that appeared to show that organically grown produce was more likely to have these disease pathogens.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 6:37AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

How can this happen with organic practices?
Just like with non-organic ... maybe even higher risk if you use animal feces as fertilizer.

So if one does not use feces as fertilizer there is no risk of listeria?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 10:38AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Yes, purple...there is always a risk of exposure to listeria. This bacterium occurs naturally in the soil and in water. The animals are probably just secondary carriers.

'Exposure' does not mean infection. Infection isn't common, but when the wrong person comes in direct contact with the bacteria, listeriosis can occur. Very young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are at most risk.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 1:03PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

For anyone to get a disease four things are necessary. 1) a disease pathogen present and in enough quantity to cause problems, 2) a means of contact, 3) a means of entry into your body, ingestion, a break in your skin, the pathogen on your hands and then touching your mucus membranes, 4) your immune system deficient. If anyone of those are missing the pathogen cannot enter your body. The single most effective method of preventing disease transmission is to wash, your hands or your food especially those vegetables and fruits that could be carriers.
The Center for Disease Control thinks food poisoning is much more common then is reported because many people do not see their doctor for "mild" cases (the 24, 48, or 72 hour "flu") and often when the doctor is seen a culture is not taken for a number of reasons. The only way to confirm food poisoning is with that culture. However, when a large number of people exhibit the same signs and symptoms, vomiting, diarrhea, and they all ate the same foods strong suspicion of food poisoning is deteermined.
Then again, several people can eat the same foods and 1 or 2 get the signs and symptoms while the others don't may well be an indication.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 11:27AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I don't use any feces in compost or as fertilizer (AND I wash stuff off.) So can I assume it's extremely unlikely I would get listeria from produce from my yard?

I would still like to know what happened with these cantaloupes from the news. Has anyone read any reporting that contained that info?

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 12:47PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

purple....if you never touch a particle of manure in your whole life...and never allow any on your property EVER, you can still get listeria FROM THE SOIL. Animals become infected the same way that we do. Manure isn't the source of this bacteria.

But you are very correct in that your chances of 'catching' listeriosis is very rare, even though the bacteria is pretty ubiquitous. If you are among one of the high risk categories your chances are greater, but with ordinary care and common sense, you can expect to go your entire life without ever becoming infected with listeria bacteria.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 12:29AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Thanks for the info. It sounds like fruits or veggies that lay on the ground while developing are more of a risk. Is that correct? I eat little tomatoes and berries (in season), sometimes lettuce, while outside sometimes without rinsing. Is that a risky practice if they are not on the ground?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 10:05AM
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Dan Staley

The farm in question is a couple hours away from here, good reputation. Last year the spinach issue was caused by adjacent landowner. This year, some of our community gardens adjacent to industrial ag farms are having problem with drift.

There's only so much you can do with industrial ag, except wash your food. If you are scared of contaminants from our food system, start agitating. Lots of avenues these days to channel concern and energy.

Dan

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 11:00AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

No doubt, Dan. I'm doing everything I know to to on that front - telling people, reading labels, sending letters to politicians, signing petitions, buying organics when available, etc...

With this thread, I'm just trying to wrap my mind around what happened to these cantaloupes and make sure I don't do anything here in my yard that would put my family at risk. I need to know what the concern is to be able to channel energy toward it.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 10:03AM
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lazy_gardens

purpleinopp - The risk is minimal.

Don't smoke, get your vaccinations, don't drive drunk, wear your seatbelt, have a working smoke alarm in the house, eat a broad variety of foods (mostly not junk food), and wash your hands before you prepare food.

Listeria is most common in:
1 - raw milk
2 - un-aged cheeses

And most dangerous to pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone else whose immune system is hampered (chemo patients, people on anti-inflammatory steroids for arthritis, etc.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 5:52PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

I'm not sure I would say Listeria is most common in raw milk and unaged cheeses although it is common in raw milk products as well as other raw foods.

Here is a link that might be useful: About Listeria

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 6:23AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

lazy, thanks for the info. If I turn up pregnant at this point, there would be bigger worries than non-aged cheese, though! LOL! I still have a good portion of my wardrobe from when I was in high school 25 yrs ago, so I think my diet is ok. Just curious about the cantaloupes from that recall.

Thanks for the link, kim.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 12:06PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

This story has hit the new pretty heavy again yesterday and today. If simply washing these fruits would have prevented these illnesses/deaths, why don't they say that? They make it sound like the "poison" is inside the fruit.

The wording: Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirmed that it found Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterial strain found in the tainted cantaloupes, in samples of melons from Jensen Farms. It says IN, not ON.

According to the group, melons have caused at least 36 outbreaks of foodborne disease since 1990, although this is the first attributed to Listeria. Is this sentence incorrect? Shouldn't it say listeria has been found on melons 36 times?

One of the comments to the story mentioned the workers picking the fruit using the field as a toilet. That's the most satisfactory explanation I've come across. Thoughts?

whole Reuters story.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 10:25AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

There are LOTS of food borne illnesses, purple. They can all be grouped under the heading of organisms that cause food poisoning. Think back on all of the incidents of norovirus, E-coli and Salmonella in the past few years! Listeria outbreaks are pretty rare, I believe.

Listeria has only recently been placed on the radar as a causal agent for food poisoning. Incidents are MUCH more common with gardeners, farmers, or workers who deal with mulch, soil, etc. Remember, it occurs naturally (without animal contamination) in soil and water, leaf litter, etc.

I have a theory that these particular contaminated melons were distributed far and wide and that consumers all along the way didn't wash the melon before cutting into it. Cantaloups are a fruit that we don't often think of as needing to be thoroughly washed, right? Whether in a restaurant, deli department of a grocery store, or at home....cutting into a contaminated melon will distribute the bacterium throughout the edible portion of the fruit.

The lesson learned from all of this is to WASH your own garden veggies, wash the produce from the market...including those with a rind or tough outer skin, avoid raw chopped food at the deli or salad bar, and make sure that any raw meat products are cooked thoroughly before eating. Following normal kitchen hygiene practices should protect each of us from the many common agents of food poisoning, including the not-so-common listeria.

Here is a link that might be useful: Read about food poisoning agents

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 1:01PM
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beeman_gardener(5)

We had an outbreak of Listeria here in Ontario a few years back.
That was in a processed meat factory, far removed from fields, field workers toilets, manure and feces. A number of folks died and holy hell was released into the food chain for a while, until they completely shut the factory and almost bulldozed it.
So I don't believe the total problem comes from manure.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 8:57PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Hey, Purple! Did you watch any national news this evening? It was explained that people get sick from cantaloup exactly how I mentioned: the bacteria is on the OUTSIDE of the rind...it is not washed....it is cut into...bacteria contaminates the fruit...we eat the fruit.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 10:47PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

No, I do news in the morning but I'm glad to hear somebody presented the info accurately. It just seems like such an important thing to mention when reporting on this. And how hard is it to say "even with foods that have a rind you will discard, these foods should still be washed to prevent this." Sheesh! Instead they've got people scared of "poison melons." But I guess more people probably tune in for that kind of story and if they make more money that way, to heck with actually trying to inform people about potentially life-saving information.

Just another example of how one needs to investigate what they read/hear to get the facts straight, or to get important facts that are missing and making the story incomplete. It's really irritating that those who's job it is to disseminate information do such a poor job so often.

So glad I asked about this and thank you all for sharing what you know.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 10:46AM
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ladybug77

I put one of those recalled melons in my compost bin--should I try to dig it out, or will composting take care of the bacteria?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 2:59PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

1. America doesn't get news, we get 'news bytes'.

2. Much of what is commonly referred to as news in the U.S. is based on incomplete information, an obsessive need to get the bad news out there (correct or otherwise), and the inability to use correct English. "In" and "on" mean totally different things, but they just don't give a rip.

3. In their rush to get the premium prices for 'organic' produce, many slipshod commercial farmers take shortcuts, like just dumping manure on the soil, rather than composting it first.

4. Much of the manure used for commercial farming comes from Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Some pathogens didn't exist before that, like the E. Coli O157:H7 and other Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.

5. Many of the food producers want all food irradiated, so they won't have to clean up their methods; they are perfectly happy selling you meat and produce contaminated with pathogens. But IMO, if a steak is coated with feces and then irradiated ("But the germs are dead!"), it's still filthy meat.

6. Americans have been trained to expect cheap food. Well, folks, you get what you pay for. (And don't forget you're paying for all those subsidies and cleanups with your taxes, so really, just how cheap is it?)

Sue

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 5:42PM
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david52 Zone 6

As an aside, this cantaloupe issue is dealing a huge blow to the Colorado melon industry. Initial press reports had it that the contaminated melons were "Rocky Ford" melons, a name known all over the country for quality and taste - Rocky Ford is 100 miles from the farm that had the contamination.

The damage is done, however, and it will be years before the reputation is restored, if ever.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 4:20PM
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