Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Cantaloupe Listeria Contamination Problem Expands: A Biochemist Explains It All" By Rev. Barbara Sexton "The Biblical Biochemist-Where Science Meets the Cross"

Dear Ones:
     Per the CDC, we are two and a half months into the latest Listeria outbreak in our food supply.
     This situation is significant because IT IS THE FIRST TIME CANTALOUPE HAS EVER BEEN IMPLICATED in a Listeria outbreak.
     All illnesses related to this event started 'on or after July 31, 2011'.
LINK: http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/index.html
     But this 'time frame' is somewhat amorphous, considering the 'lag period' between ingestion of contaminated melon and the development of...and reporting of...cases of listeriosis.  It may well be that the offending organisms have been at work infecting our cantaloupe supply for OVER FOUR and a half months, instead.
     Because it can take up to 2 MONTHS for listeriosis to develop after food contaminated with Listeria is consumed, you must understand that this FDA Recall is ONGOING.

LINK: http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/treatment.html
     The initial recall was for 'Jensen Farms' cantaloupes:
     "On September 14, 2011, FDA issued a press release to announce that Jensen Farms issued a voluntary recall of its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes after being linked to a multistate outbreak of listeriosis.
LINK: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm271899.htm
     However, the FDA and CDC pointed out that not all of the 'Jensen Farms' cantaloupe was readily 'identifiable' as it was distributed throughout the nation's food supply chain.
     And sure enough, on October 6. 2011, Fruit Fresh Up, Inc. brand cantaloupe and cut mixed fruit was added to the list of 'brands of cantaloupe' for consumers to AVOID:
"October 6, 2011 - Fruit Fresh Up, Inc. of Depew, New York is recalling approximately 4,800 individual packages of FRESH CUT CANTALOUPE AND CUT MIXED FRUIT CONTAINING CANTALOUPE because they have the potential to be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Fruit Fresh Up, Inc. was not advised of the possible contamination of the cantaloupe it acquired from an independent wholesale vendor until last Thursday, September 27th."
LINK: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm274835.htm
     New Yorkers, especially, will want to AVOID all of the following products by Fruit Fresh Up, Inc:
"The fresh cut fruit subject to this recall was sold between August 31, 2011 and September 11, 2011, and consisted of the following products: Cantaloupe Chunks, Cantaloupe Slices, Gourmet Fruit Salad, Small Fruit Salad, Small and Large Fruit Salad with Pineapple, Fruit Salad with Kiwi, and Fruit Trays."
     And REMEMBER (again) that the 'lag period' between ingestion of Listeria-contaminated produce and the development of signs and symptoms of listeriosis CAN BE AS LONG AS TWO MONTHS (8 weeks).
     So if you ATE any of these Fresh Fruit Up, Inc. products, be sure to see your health care provider IMMEDIATELY if you think you are developing what you believe to be any 'food-related' illness.  Check out the CDC's Listeriosis infection page for detailed information:
     It is plain to see that we are far from 'identifying' all the Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe that has been distributed to date.
     Indeed, the expert advice-which I cannot EMPHASIZE ENOUGH-is to exercise ALL CAUTION with eating ALL cantaloupe for the time being!:
"CDC recommends that consumers not eat whole or pre-cut Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupe from Jensen Farms. This is especially important for older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women...Even if some of the cantaloupe has been eaten without becoming ill, dispose of the rest of the cantaloupe immediately. Listeria bacteria can grow in the cantaloupe at room and refrigerator temperatures. Cantaloupes that are known to NOT have come from Jensen Farms are safe to eat. If consumers are uncertain about the source of a cantaloupe for purchase, they should ask the grocery store. A cantaloupe purchased from an unknown source should be discarded: "when in doubt, throw it out." 
LINK: http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/cantaloupes-jensen-farms/101211/index.html
     Did you get that, my dear Readers?  "WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT".  And Rev. Barb advises that unless you are absolutely certain of a cantaloupe's 'origin', AVOID EATING IT AT ALL FOR THE TIME BEING!

     To date, 25 states are affected by this Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe:
" As of 9am EDT on October 11, 2011, a total of 116 persons infected with any of the four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported to CDC from 25 states.  The number of infected persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (1), Arkansas (1), California (1), Colorado (34), Idaho (1), Illinois (1), Indiana (3), Iowa (1), Kansas (7), Louisiana (2), Maryland (1), Missouri (4), Montana (1), Nebraska (6), New Mexico (13), New York (1), North Dakota (1), Oklahoma (11), Oregon (1), South Dakota (1), Texas (17), Virginia (1), West Virginia (1), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (3). "
LINK: http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/cantaloupes-jensen-farms/101211/index.html 
     As of October 12, 2011, 23 DEATHS and 1 miscarriage (not included in the deaths stat) have been reported to the CDC:
"Twenty-three deaths have been reported: 5 in Colorado, 1 in Indiana, 2 in Kansas, 2 in Louisiana, 1 in Maryland, 1 in Missouri, 1 in Nebraska, 5 in New Mexico, 1 in New York, 1 in Oklahoma, 2 in Texas, and 1 in Wyoming. In addition, one woman pregnant at the time of illness had a miscarriage." 
     For those interested in the more technical aspects of the Listeria contaminated FDA Recall, note the following:
"Listeriosis is caused by Listeria monocytogenes, a gram-positive bacillus common in the environment and acquired by humans primarily through consumption of contaminated food. Infection causes a spectrum of illness, ranging from febrile gastroenteritis to invasive disease, including sepsis and meningoencephalitis. Invasive listeriosis occurs predominantly in older adults and persons with impaired immune systems. Listeriosis in pregnant women is typically a mild "flu-like" illness, but can result in fetal loss, premature labor, or neonatal infection. Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics."
     'Febrile gastroenteritis' means fever and tummy ache and intestinal woes.  'Meningoencephalitis' refers to the brain and the membranes around the brain and the spinal cord (the 'meninges' pron men-IN-geez) being infected by the Listeria bacteria.
      It is a common practice and an essential 'tool' to 'subtype' pathogenic bacteria.  This is necessary to determine what bacteria are involved in an outbreak and can be critical to determining the transmission of--and eventually the original SOURCE of--the offending microbe.
     Most importantly, sub-typing allows health care providers to develop and administer an ideal antibiotic regimen for those who become infected.
     We all know by now that pathogens are those microbiological agents which cause disease, the most common of which known to the public are bacteria and viruses.
     In this case, "four widely differing PFGE pattern combinations and two serotypes (1/2a and 1/2b) have been associated with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes" (pron: list-TEAR-ee-ah mah-no-sye-TAHGE-en-eeze) were isolated from cut and whole cantaloupe samples collected from patients' homes, from grocery stores where Jensen Farms melons were sold and from the Jensen Farm, itself.
     The above report is from the 'Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report' aka the 'MMWR', which is an 'arm' of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
     PFGE is 'Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis' is a technology which allows a biochemist to apply a given sample to a 'gel matrix' wherein the specific components of the sample are 'separated' when a pulsed electric field (from several directions sequentially) is applied to it.
     PFGE is the technology that allows for 'DNA typing', for genetic 'fingerprinting' and for 'genotyping' any number of biological and natural ' moieties and has helped very effectively to distinguish between different Listeria sub-species.
     What happened with this Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe situation is that doctors and local and state health agencies reported cases of listeriosis to the FDA, which started studies of the situation.
     As in the case of infectious diseases, the CDC then became involved, for this Listeria contamination of cantaloupe has not 'gone away'.  Thus began the 'sample collection and analysis' as a collaborative effort between the FDA and the CDC...each doing what they do best.
     And, now, as you see MMWR is 'onboard' reporting on deaths and other 'outcomes' for consumers who have been infected with Listeria.
     So my advice for all of us is to be on guard here.  We are dealing with a yet-evolving and ongoing food-borne illness cluster, which is UNUSUAL and unprecedented in many ways:
"This outbreak has several unusual features. First, this is the first listeriosis outbreak associated with melon. Second, four widely differing PFGE pattern combinations and two serotypes (1/2a and 1/2b) have been associated with the outbreak. Third, this outbreak is unusually large; only two U.S. listeriosis outbreaks, one associated with frankfurters (108 cases) and one with Mexican-style cheese (142), have had more cases (1,2). Additional cases likely will be reported because of the long incubation period (usually 1--3 weeks, range: 3--70 days) and the time needed for diagnosis and confirmation. Fourth, this outbreak has the highest number of deaths of any U.S. foodborne outbreak since a listeriosis outbreak in 1998 (1). "
     I had not written on this outbreak Listeria in cantaloupe previously, thinking (and praying) that the media would have covered it adequately, you'd be informed and it would just run a 'limited course'.
     But Listeria-contamination of cantaloupe is NOT going away and we must be mindful of 'lag periods' in both disease manifestation and in reporting times.
     We also do not know, yet, if food processors are inadvertently contaminating OTHER foodstuffs with Listeria, and if so, what they may be.
     In an ideal situation, manufacturers 'cooperate' in FDA and CDC investigations, but this is not always the case, as I have written about before.
     So my best advice is to be aware of what you eat, AVOID what you should, be aware of your BODY and seek competent professional health care advice from a trusted health care provider at the first indication that something may be wrong.
     Anyone interested in the contamination of chopped Romaine lettuce with Listeria can read about that here:
May God Bless You & keep you healthy!
Rev. Barbara Sexton
"The Biblical Biochemist-Where Science Meets the Cross
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