The death toll linked to listeria-contaminated cantaloupes in the United States reached 28 in late October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Whole or pre-cut Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupe from Colorado-based Jensen Farms have been traced as the cause of what has become the deadliest U.S. food-borne listeria outbreak in a quarter century.
A total of 133 people in 26 states have fallen ill so far, and one woman had a miscarriage. The deadliest known food-borne listeria outbreak in the U.S. was in 1985 when cheese contaminated with listeria killed 18 adults and 10 newborns, and caused 20 miscarriages.
The illness has a long incubation period, with symptoms sometimes not appearing for two months. In a letter to Jensen Farms the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said testing turned up widespread listeria contamination at its Granada, Colo. packing plant.
The elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk from listeriosis. Symptoms include fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea and other gastric problems.
(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein; Editing by Greg McCune, Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)