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Death Toll in Cantaloupe Recall Rises

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Los Angeles, CAAs the death toll linked to the cantaloupe recall rises, lawsuits have been filed against the companies involved in the 2011 cantaloupe recall. Although there should no longer be any listeria cantaloupe in customer's refrigerators, there is still a chance that people who ingested the recalled cantaloupe could become ill, meaning the death toll could still increase.

The Los Angeles Times (11/03/11) reports that the death toll has now reached 29, with 139 illnesses in 28 states linked to the cantaloupe recall. Additionally, at least one pregnant woman reportedly suffered a miscarriage after eating tainted cantaloupe. Because listeriosis can take up to two months to appear, some patients may still be at risk of serious illness or death. According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those who died so far, excluding the miscarriage, were between the ages of 48 and 96.

From October 24, 2011 through November 2, 2011, an additional six people became ill with Listeria monocytogenes. That is far below the number who fell ill in September when the recall was announced, but it indicates that more people could still become sick from contaminated cantaloupe.

In October, officials announced that the cause of the listeria outbreak was traced back to unsanitary packing conditions and dirty equipment at the Jensen Farms packing plant, as well as pools of water under the equipment. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that the cantaloupe were not subject to a pre-cooling procedure, which would have cooled them off more quickly before being stored. Because they were sent to storage wet and warm, listeria was able to thrive.

According to Fox News (11/02/11), at least eight lawsuits were filed against Jensen Farms and other companies linked to the outbreak, alleging victims became seriously ill or died after eating contaminated cantaloupe.

One lawsuit alleges an 89-year-old woman died after eating contaminated cantaloupe, while another lawsuit alleges a 92-year-old man became seriously ill, was hospitalized for five weeks and placed in a nursing home because of the cantaloupe. According to The Kansas City Star (10/30/11), Paul Schwarz first fell ill the day after the cantaloupe recall was announced and was hospitalized on September 19 for listeriosis. He now undergoes physical and occupational therapy in the nursing home, and his family is not sure when he'll be able to leave.

Those most at risk of falling ill after eating contaminated foods are people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women and the elderly. Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches and gastric problems, although symptoms can vary widely from patient to patient.

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