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Information on the Recalled Jensen Farms Whole Cantaloupes

Updated January 9, 2012


Final Update on Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Whole Cantaloupes

December 8, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a FINAL Update disclaimer icon on the Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Whole Cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, Colorado. According to CDC, available evidence indicates that the outbreak is over.  A total of 146 persons infected with any of the four outbreak-associated strains were reported to CDC from 28 states. Thirty deaths were reported. Additionally, one woman pregnant at the time of illness had a miscarriage.

October 19, 2011, FDA released a report: “Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Fresh, Whole Cantaloupe Implicated in the Multi-State Listeria monocytogenes Foodborne Illness Outbreak” which provides an overview of factors that potentially contributed to the contamination of fresh, whole cantaloupe with the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes which was implicated in a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis.  FDA’s findings regarding this particular outbreak highlight the importance for the industry to employ good agricultural and management practices in their packing facilities as well as in growing fields.  FDA will work with industry and regulatory partners to share lessons learned from this outbreak in an effort to prevent the occurrence of similar outbreaks in the future.

FDA Publishes Report on Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Fresh, Whole Cantaloupe Implicated in the Multi-State Listeria monocytogenes Foodborne Illness Outbreak

On October 19, 2011, FDA released a document which provides an overview of factors that potentially contributed to the contamination of fresh, whole cantaloupe with the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes which was implicated in a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis. In early September 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health departments, began to investigate a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis. Early in the investigation, cantaloupes from Jensen Farms in the southeast region of Colorado were implicated in the outbreak. 

On September 10, 2011, FDA, along with Colorado state officials, conducted an inspection at Jensen Farms and collected multiple samples, including whole cantaloupes and environmental (non-product) samples from within the facility, for laboratory analysis to identify the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. Of the 39 environmental swabs collected from within the facility, 13 were confirmed positive for Listeria monocytogenes with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern combinations that were indistinguishable from three of the four outbreak strains collected from affected patients. Of the 13 positive environmental swabs, 12 were collected at the processing line and 1 was collected from the packing area. Cantaloupe collected from the firm’s cold storage during the inspection was also confirmed positive for Listeria monocytogenes with PFGE pattern combinations that were indistinguishable from two of the four outbreak strains.

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FDA Environmental Swabs Positive Results

Processing Line:

  • 9 positive samples from the grading belt Swabs 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 29, 30 & 33
  • 2 positive samples from the conveyor
    Swabs 20 & 28
  • 1 positive sample from the felt rollers
    Swab 13

Packing Area:

  • 1 positive sample from the conveyor belt
    Swab 34

FDA Product Sample Results
1 Cantaloupe Sample collected from cold storage
5 subs tested positive
(10 whole cantaloupes or “Subs”)

Please refer to the section below for
FDA’s Sample Records and Results on Jensen Farms

As a result of the isolation of outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes in the environment of the packing facility and whole cantaloupes collected from cold storage, and the fact that this is the first documented listeriosis outbreak associated with fresh, whole cantaloupe in the United States, FDA initiated an environmental assessment in conjunction with Colorado state and local officials. FDA, state, and local officials conducted the environmental assessment at Jensen Farms on September 22-23, 2011. The environmental assessment was conducted to gather more information to assist FDA in identifying the factors that potentially contributed to the introduction, growth, or spread of the Listeria monocytogenes strains that contaminated the cantaloupe. 

FDA identified the following factors as those that most likely contributed to the introduction, spread, and growth of Listeria monocytogenes in the cantaloupes:

Introduction:

  • There could have been low level sporadic Listeria monocytogenes in the field where the cantaloupe were grown, which could have been introduced into the packing facility

  • A truck used to haul culled cantaloupe to a cattle operation was parked adjacent to the packing facility and could have introduced contamination into the facility

Spread:

  • The packing facility’s design allowed water to pool on the floor near equipment and employee walkways

  • The packing facility floor was constructed in a manner that made it difficult to clean

  • The packing equipment was not easily cleaned and sanitized; washing and drying equipment used for cantaloupe packing was previously used for postharvest handling of another raw agricultural commodity

Growth:

  • There was no pre-cooling step to remove field heat from the cantaloupes before cold storage. As the cantaloupes cooled there may have been condensation that promoted the growth of Listeria monocytogenes

FDA’s findings regarding this particular outbreak highlight the importance for firms to employ good agricultural and management practices in their packing facilities as well as in growing fields. FDA recommends that firms employ good agricultural and management practices recommended for the growing, harvesting, washing, sorting, packing, storage and transporting of fruits and vegetables sold to consumers in an unprocessed or minimally processed raw form. 

FDA has issued a warning letter to Jensen Farms based on environmental and cantaloupe samples collected during the inspection. FDA’s investigation at Jensen Farms is still considered an open investigation.

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FDA Sample Records and Results on Jensen Farms

FDA has posted documents related to the collection and analysis of various samples collected during a regulatory inspection at Jensen Farms in follow-up to a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis. Records posted included Collection Reports that document, among other things, chain of custody, Analytical Worksheets, and Sample Summary Reports. These samples were collected on September 9 and 10, 2011, by the FDA.

The following samples were found to be positive for Listeria monocytogenes and also had PFGE patterns that matched in total 3 of the 4 PFGE patterns associated with outbreak strains collected from affected patients:

Sample #643701

Summary Report (PDF - 94KB)
Collection Report (PDF - 248KB)
Analyst Worksheet (PDF - 966KB)

1 product sample of Jensen Farms cantaloupe (10 cantaloupes or “subs") was collected on September 9, 2011 from a retail store in Denver, Colorado.
  • 9 of the 10 cantaloupes (“subs”) in this sample tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes with a PFGE pattern matching the outbreak strain #2.
Sample #713431

Summary Report (PDF - 94KB)
Collection Report (PDF - 2.7MB)
Analyst Worksheet (PDF - 804KB)

1 product sample (10 cantaloupes or “subs) was collected on September 10, 2011 from the cooler at Jensen Farms' packing facility during FDA's regulatory inspection. 

  • 5 of the 10 cantaloupes (“subs”) in this sample tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes
    • 4 cantaloupes (“subs”) had a PFGE pattern matching the outbreak strain #2;
    • 1 cantaloupe (“sub”) had a PFGE pattern matching the outbreak strain #4.      

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Sample #713432

Summary Report (PDF - 112KB)
Collection Report (PDF - 268KB)
Analyst Worksheet (PDF - 1.4MB)

1 environmental sample (39 environmental swabs or “subs) was collected on September 10, 2011 during FDA's regulatory inspection at Jensen Farms.
  • 13 of the 39 environmental swabs (“subs”) in this sample tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. 
  • 10 swabs (“subs”) had a PFGE pattern matching the outbreak strain #2;
    • 1 swab (“sub”) had a PFGE pattern matching the outbreak strain #3;
    • 1 swab (“sub”) had a PFGE pattern matching the outbreak strain #4;
    • 1 swab (“sub”) had a PFGE pattern that did not match any of the 4 outbreak strains.  
  • Of these 13 positive environmental swabs,

    • 12 were collected at various points along the processing line in the packing shed:
      Processing Line
      9 positive samples from the grading belt (
      Swabs 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 29, 30 & 33)
      2 positive samples from the conveyor that transports cantaloupes (Swabs 20 & 28)
      1 positive sample from the felt rollers of the drier (Swab 13)
    • 1 was collected from the packing area of the shed:
      Packing Area
      1 positive sample from the conveyor
       belt that transports cantaloupes (Swab 34)      

The following sample was negative for Listeria monocytogenes:

Sample #713433

Summary Report (PDF - 92KB) 
Collection Report (PDF - 233KB)
Analyst Worksheet (PDF - 360KB)

1 sample (100 ml of municipal tap water) was collected from water pre-wash spray arm in the cantaloupe processing line during FDA’s regulatory inspection at Jensen Farms on September 10, 2011.

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Jensen Farms' Recall

Jensen Farms voluntarily recalled its whole cantaloupes on Sept. 14 in response to the multi-state outbreak of listeriosis. Cantaloupes from other farms have not been linked to this outbreak.

FDA has successfully audited nearly 100% of Jensen Farms’ direct accounts and many additional secondary accounts. The recalled cantaloupes were produced from the end of July to September 10, 2011. Given that the Jensen Farms’ recall has been in effect for more than a month and the shelf life of a cantaloupe is approximately two weeks, it is expected that all of the recalled whole Jensen Farms cantaloupes have been removed from the marketplace.

FDA has verified that the following states received recalled cantaloupes directly from Jensen Farms: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. There is no indication of foreign distribution. 

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Consumer Safety Information

Listeria can grow at refrigerator temperatures, about 40 Fahrenheit (4 Celsius). The longer ready-to-eat refrigerated foods are stored in the refrigerator, the more opportunity Listeria has to grow.

It is very important that consumers clean their refrigerators and other food preparation surfaces. Consumers should follow these simple steps:

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

  • Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.

  • Wipe up spills in the refrigerator immediately and clean the refrigerator regularly.

  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitization process.

FDA advises consumers not to eat the recalled cantaloupes and to throw them away. Do not try to wash the harmful bacteria off the cantaloupe as contamination may be both on the inside and outside of the cantaloupe. Cutting, slicing and dicing may also transfer harmful bacteria from the fruit’s surface to the fruit’s flesh.

Listeriosis is rare but can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups. These groups include older adults, people with compromised immune systems, unborn babies and newborns. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and serious illness or death in newborn babies, though the mother herself rarely becomes seriously ill. A person with listeriosis usually has fever and muscle aches. Persons who think they might have become ill should consult their doctor.

For more information on the epidemiologic investigation, please refer to CDC’s Investigation on the Multi-State Listeriosis Outbreak disclaimer icon.  

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Page Last Updated: 07/21/2014
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