According to Colorado agricultural officials, the cause of the recent listeria outbreak, traced to tainted cantaloupe from Jensen Farm, has been discovered. Earlier this week, investigators concluded that unsanitary conditions at packing facilities maintained by Jensen Farms were the root cause of the deadly illness.
The outbreak of listeria is the deadliest in recent U.S. history. 25 people were killed and 120 sickened across 26 states as a result of consuming tainted cantaloupe.
Part of the problem, some officials claim, is that Jensen Farm, which has operated for more than 20 years, was never inspected by the Food and Drug Administration. Many food growers are not required to submit to FDA inspections. While large buyers typically only purchase produce that has undergone Good Agricultural Practices certification and inspection, voluntary inspections and audits are frequently spotty. For example, Jensen Farms underwent and passed a voluntary audit in July, just weeks before the listeria outbreak.
While the listeria outbreak appears to be contained, many Colorado farmers are worried about the fallout. Cantaloupe farmers in the Rocky Ford area acknowledge that it will likely be some time before American consumers are willing to trust their cantaloupe. As such, many farmers in the region are reducing their cantaloupe planting, instead relying on other crops to get them through upcoming lean years.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer