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Market removes cantaloupes from shelves following alert

It hasn’t yet reached the status of a Listeria hysteria but, nevertheless, Colorado-grown cantaloupe has been pulled from City Market shelves due to concerns about the bacteria.

On Monday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) issued a press release announcing that people at high risk for Listeria should avoid cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford growing region.

“People at high risk for Listeria infection should not eat cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford growing region,” said Dr. Chris Urbina, chief medical officer and executive director of the CDPHE. “The department expects additional test results later this week that may help identify the specific source of the cantaloupe linked to the multistate outbreak.”

Though not a recall, City Market voluntarily pulled all Colorado-grown cantaloupe from store shelves late Monday night. Cantaloupe grown in other regions are still available, according to Kelly McGannon, City Market public relations specialist.

According to the press release, eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an uncommon, though potentially fatal, infection.

Symptoms of listeriosis may include fever, muscle aches, diarrhea, headache, stiff neck, confusion and convulsions. Listeriosis can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths.

“Antibiotics given promptly can cure the illness and prevent infection of a fetus. Even with prompt treatment, some Listeria infections result in death,” the press release states. “This is particularly likely in older adults and in people with other serious medical problems.”

The CDPHE press release notes that 11 of Colorado’s 13 listeriosis cases have been linked to the multistate outbreak.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is coordinating the multistate investigation with affected states, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service,” the press release states. “Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also is working with local public health partners on the investigation.”

Those who are considered high-risk for listeriosis are people aged 60 and older; those with weakened immune systems from transplants or certain chronic diseases, immunosuppressive therapies or medications; and pregnant women. Healthy adults under age 60 rarely develop the illness.

Generally, Listeria guidance advises the avoidance of deli meats unless reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, refrigerated paté or meat spreads, refrigerated smoked seafood, and soft cheeses such as queso fresco and brie, unless made with pasteurized milk.

Additionally, safe handling can help to decrease the risk of not only Listeria, but also other bacteria on fruit and vegetables.

Consumers and food preparers are advised to wash their hands before and after handling any melon (or fruit or vegetable), and the produce should be washed whether or not it has a rind.

Melon should be promptly refrigerated, ideally at between 32 and 34 degrees Fahrenheit for cut melons. Cut melons left at room temperature for more than four hours should be discarded.

Customers who purchased a Colorado-grown cantaloupe from City Market, and still have it, can return it to the store for a refund. Melons grown in Colorado should have a sticker indicating such, and it should be apparent on the receipt, McGannon said.

For more information, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/listeriosis.

randi@pagosasun.com

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