Listeria outbreak traced to contaminated melons kills 34

A listeria outbreak in Colorado linked to contaminated cantaloupes has claimed another victim. Mike Hauser, a 68-year-old retired podiatrist, fell ill in November. He suffered from seizures and lapsed into a coma from which it was not certain that he would recover; however, he eventually regained sufficient strength to leave the hospital. But an apparent recurrence forced him to return, where he died on Tuesday.

An investigation conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced the source of the listeria outbreak to washing and packing equipment at Jensen Farms, located in southeastern Colorado. The FDA report blamed lax or wholly absent safety practices. Specifically, insufficient antibacterial solution in water used to wash produce, and also noted pools of dirty water accumulating around a potato-sorting machine.

In a separate report, Congress criticized the food industry’s practice of hiring third-party auditors to oversee safety practices. One such auditor gave Jensen Farms a high grade shortly before the contaminated cantaloupes were distributed to grocery stores.

The Hausers have retained a Seattle-based lawyer specializing in food-borne illnesses. Their lawsuit is one of several filed against Jensen and grocers who sold the cantaloupes. The outbreak is believed to be the deadliest since the 1920s, having claimed 34 people to date.

The Denver Post’s report can be found here.