As the number of deaths and illnesses stemming from the recent canteloupe recall continue to increase, so do the number of food poisoning lawsuits filed by individuals who have suffered a listeria illness after eating the tainted fruit.
At least six cantaloupe recall lawsuits have been filed so far, and dozens more are expected as the listeria outbreak has been linked to at least 21 deaths and 112 illnesses according to the latest reports.
Of the six lawsuits filed so far over the canteloupes, two involve a wrongful death claim brought by family members of people whose deaths have been linked to the cantaloupes.
The number of deaths linked to the recalled cantaloupe is now equal to a listeria outbreak in 1998 linked to hot dogs and deli meats from Bil Mar Foods, which is owned by Sara Lee Corp. In addition, at least two more deaths are still under investigation as potentially being linked to the outbreak.
Even though all of the listeria-infected cantaloupe has either been consumed or gone bad by now, the CDC warns that the number of illnesses associated with the outbreak are likely to continue to rise, because the organism, Listeria monocytogenes, can live in the gut for up to two months before the carrier develops listeria.
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 listeriosis, which can be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms of listeriosis 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.
A recall was issued last month for Jensen Farms’ Rocky Ford cantaloupes, and subsequent inspections found listeria strains associated with the illnesses on machinery and cantaloupes at the manufacturer’s packing facility. The recall was expanded on September 23 to include 594 pounds of Carol’s Cuts fresh cut cantaloupe.