The deadliest food outbreak in more than a decade has already claimed as many as 16 lives and sickened over 70 people in 18 different states.
Health officials are saying Listeria is being detected in Rocky Ford cantaloupes processed by Jensen Farms in Colorado. Jensen Farms has issued a voluntary recall of the fruit in recent weeks, though, according to ABC, several families have already filed lawsuits against Jensen Farms.
At this time, it’s not clear how the cataloupes became contaminated. They’re being examined to find the cause of the outbreak including the reported possibility of water contamination and the farm’s harvesting practices, reported ABC.
The cantaloupes have already been shipped to over 18 states, including New York, and while the number of reported illnesses and deaths is pretty high, it’s expected to grow because it can reportedly take up to two months for people to become infected. And making matters worse, there are four different listeria strains being associated with the outbreak.
Reportedly, Listeria is a dangerous pathogen found in soil and water, it’s causes the third most deadly foodborne illness. According to the Associated Press, it’s a common bacterium that generally only sickens the elderly, pregnant women and others with compromised immune systems.
According to Canada.com, listeria infections can cause septicemia, meningitis (or meningoencephalitis), encephalitis, as well as intrauterine or cervical infections in pregnant women, which may result in spontaneous abortion or stillbirth. But before these illnesses show up, FDA states that people usually report flu-like symptoms or upset stomach symptoms, like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to NPR.org.