With 14 Deaths, Cantaloupe Outbreak Could Be Deadliest in a Decade

September 27, 2011 - 3:35 PM
Listeria Cantaloupe

An operator of a fruit and vegetable stand near Denver holds a California-grown cantaloupe for sale at her business on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. Federal and state officials have isolated a deadly outbreak of listeria to one cantaloupe farm near Holly, Colo. They have ordered a recall of 300,000 cases of melons grown on the Jensen Farms. Only California-grown cantaloupe could be found in Denver markets. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Washington (AP) — As many as 14 people have died from possible listeria illnesses traced to Colorado cantaloupes — a death toll that would make the outbreak the deadliest in more than a decade.

The Centers for Disease Control said last week that 55 illnesses and eight deaths were linked to the outbreak. Since then, state and local health departments in Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming have reported six additional deaths that may be linked to the tainted fruit.

Listeria is more deadly than more well-known pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, though those outbreaks generally cause more illnesses. Twenty-one people died in an outbreak of listeria poisoning in 1998 traced to contaminated hot dogs and possibly deli meats.

Jensen Farms of Holly, Colo., recalled cantaloupes earlier this month linked to the illnesses.