Thousands of cantaloupes distributed to small, independent grocery stores in Michigan are being recalled due to a potential risk of contamination with listeria, which could cause serious and potentially life-threatening illness.
The FDA announced the Athena cantaloupe recall on August 6, after routine sampling found Listeria monocytogenes in fruit distributed by Heeren Brothers Produce last month.
Although there have been no reports of food poisoning connected to this recall, a massive listeria outbreak was linked to cantaloups in late 2011, with about 150 confirmed cases of listeria poisoning and at least 33 deaths.
Heeren Brothers distributed the recently recalled cantaloups between July 23 and July 26 in Michigan. While the company has notified retailers and asked them to remove them from store shelves, there are no stickers or other markings on the fruit to identify them. The source of the listeria contamination is still under investigation.
While one of the rarer forms of food poisoning, listeria is one of the more dangerous. It frequently results in hospitalization and about a quarter of those who contract the illness die from the infection.
Listeria illnesses pose a particular risk for children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. For pregnant women, illness from Listeria bacteria can cause miscarriages and still births.
Blood tests are usually required to diagnose listeria infection, which can be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms of listeria poisoning include muscle aches, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, severe headaches and fever. If the bacteria spreads from the intestines to the bloodstream and nervous system, it could cause meningitis and other complications.
In September 2011, Jansen Farms issued a cantaloupe recall following an outbreak of listeria illnesses that were linked to cantaloupes grown in the Rocky Ford region of Colorado. As a result the company was hit with a number of lawsuits, including wrongful death claims, over what has been considered one of the deadliest food poisoning outbreaks in U.S. history since 1924.
Consumers with questions about the Heeren Brothers Athena cantaloupe recall can call the company at (616) 452-2101.