For Immediate Release
September 15, 2011

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

KDHE joins FDA, CDC in warning about Rocky Ford cantaloupes

Topeka—The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) concurs with the recommendations of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by warning persons at high risk for listeriosis, including older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women, to not eat cantaloupes marketed as coming from the Rocky Ford region of Colorado because of potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can cause severe illness.

Rocky Ford cantaloupes were distributed in Kansas and several other states. The cantaloupes were grown in the Rocky Ford region of Colorado and may carry a Rocky Ford label. One farm, Jensen Farms of Holly, Colo., issued a voluntary recall of Rocky Ford Cantaloupe on Sept.14. People who have cantaloupes in their homes can check the label or check with the grocery store to determine if the fruit came from the Rocky Ford region.

KDHE is collaborating with the CDC, the FDA, the Kansas Department of Agriculture and health officials in other states to investigate a multistate outbreak of listeriosis associated with consumption of Rocky Ford cantaloupes. Kansas has had six cases of listeriosis reported since Aug. 26. None of these cases has been definitively linked to the multistate outbreak, but investigations are underway and additional laboratory testing is pending. Typically, Kansas reports fewer than six cases of listeriosis per year; to date, there have been seven cases in 2011, including the six cases currently under investigation.

Listeriosis primarily occurs among older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, pregnant women and newborns.  Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, diarrhea and vomiting. People with these symptoms should consult a physician. Symptoms typically occur three to 70 days after exposure. 

KDHE and CDC recommend that persons at high risk for listeriosis, including older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women, do not eat Rocky Ford cantaloupes. Cantaloupes marketed as coming from the Rocky Ford region should be disposed of in a closed plastic bag placed in a sealed trash can. This will prevent people or animals from eating them. Even if some of the cantaloupe has been eaten without becoming ill, dispose of the rest of the cantaloupe immediately. If the whole cantaloupe is unlabeled, please contact your retail store to determine the source of the fruit. Listeria bacteria can grow in the cantaloupe at room and refrigerator temperatures.

People should wash their hands before and after handling melon. The surface of melons should be washed and dried with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting. Cut melon should be promptly refrigerated at less than 41ºF. Cut melons left at room temperature for more than 4 hours should be discarded.

For additional information regarding this outbreak, visit the CDC multistate food borne illness outbreak page at http://www.cdc.gov/outbreaknet/outbreaks.html and the FDA recall media release at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm271879.htm