1:22pm

Wed October 19, 2011
Health

FDA Cites Cantaloupe Packing Facility in Listeria Outbreak

The Food and Drug Administration is reporting that conditions in Jensen Farms’ cantaloupe packing facility led to a listeria outbreak that has killed 25 and sickened 123 people.

The FDA isn’t pinpointing the outbreak to one particular issue within the facility, but rather a combination of factors. Jensen Farms’ structure had a floor that allowed water to pool near equipment and employee walkways. Processing equipment was difficult to clean and sanitize, and had been previously used for processing other produce.

"I just emphasize preventive practices—cleaning, sanitizing and equipment design are so important," said Sherri McGarry, a senior advisor in the FDA’s Office of Foods during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

The report also said that Jensen Farms did not pre-cool cantaloupes to remove heat before cold storage. That could have promoted the growth of listeria.

FDA Officials stressed that conditions at Jensen Farms were unique and didn’t follow industry standards.

The listeria outbreak is being labeled as the deadliest in 25 years. Jensen Farms’ cantaloupes have been traced to cases in 26 states.