Listeria Risk Leads to Athena Cantaloupe Recall

Concerns over potential contamination with listeria bacteria have lead to a recall of about 580 cases of whole Athena cantaloupes distributed by Burch Equipment LLC, which were sold under the Burch Farms label. 

The FDA announced the Athena cantaloupe recall on July 28, almost a year after a listeria outbreak caused by another manufacturer’s cantaloupes killed at least 31 people nationwide. In this case the listeria was detected during a random sampling.

The affected whole Athena cantaloupes carry a red Burch Farms label and have PLU #4319. They were shipped July 15 and distributed across the northeastern United States.

The manufacturer is asking anyone who has the recalled cantaloupes to destroy them. There was no offer made in the recall notice to compensate consumers who bought the recalled cantaloupes. Consumers with questions can call Burch Equipment LLC at (910) 267-5781 or email

Although there have been no food poisoning illnesses reported in connection to these recalled cantaloupes, listeria infections pose a particular risk for children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. For pregnant women, illness from bacteria, which is known as listeriosis, can cause miscarriages and still births.

Blood tests are usually required to diagnose listeriosis, which presents with symptoms of 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, another cantaloupe recall by Jensen Farms was issued amid an outbreak that caused more than 150 people to become sick from listeria food poisoning, and caused at least 31 deaths. It was the most lethal food poisoning outbreak since 1924, and a number of food poisoning lawsuits have been filed as a result of the outbreak.

UPDATE 8/3/2012: On August 2, this cantaloupe recall was expanded to 13,888 cases of 9 melons each and 581 bins of 110 melons each, bringing the total number of cantaloupes affected to 188,902. The recalled cantaloupes were distributed to retail stores in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania South Carolina and Virginia. Some of the cantaloupes may have been sold under the “Cottle Strawberry, Inc.” label, but will still have PLU # 4319.

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