Thursday, October 20, 2011
THE CAUSE OF THE CANTALOUPE OUTBREAK?
Well, it seems that a tentative cause has been found for the Listeria bacteria contamination of cantaloupes all over the U.S.. This really bad outbreak has now killed around 25 people, made at least 123 people ill, and probably affected many, who didn't become ill, but may become carriers of the bacteria.
Investigators have zeroed in on the packing shed at Jensen Farms in Ohio. The Listeria monocytogenes bacteria has been isolated in samples taken from the cantaloupe conveyor belts, a melon drying area, and a floor drain. Now the question is: how did it get there? A packing shed on a farm is like a transit area, with a whole lot going on. So there are many possibilities.
It could have been in the soil covering the cantaloupes when they came there . Or, it could have been in the washing water (it wouldn't be the first time that washing water actually made produce less safe, rather than more safe). Or, it could have been that recently purchased equipment from another farm which had previously been used to wash potatoes. Or, possibly, it could have come from workers in the sheds who were carriers (a lot of people are). Or, even from a truck, parked too close to the packing shed, which could have brought Listeria from another farm or road or field. We may never find out.
The farm didn't do too well during recent government inspection in terms of other conditions as well. Among the things that government inspectors noticed were pools of water on the floor (which could be recent, after the farm closed operations), cloths used to cover the melons, inadequate cooling of cantaloupes, and rather worn out and hard-to-clean equipment.
And guess what, this farm had passed a recent inspection by a privates safety contractor with flying colors (the packing plant scored 96 out of 100).
So what else is new. This has happened before many times (for example, with that huge peanut outbreak that originated in Georgia). Why? The procedure is for the farm or plant to hire and pay the company that inspects. So, hum ha, you might say they were a little biased towards giving a good report. These procedures have to be changed, and inspectors everywhere have to be trained better (I go on about this in the book).
Of course, the Jensen brothers have gone out of business and are battling numerous law suits. I feel sorry for them. This can happen so easily.
To your good health,