23 dead, 1 miscarriage, 116 ill from listeria-in-cantaloupe; on-farm report still due

How long until it’s an Entertainment News headline:

It’s the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in 25 years! Here’s what celebrities are doing to protect themselves!

As I told CBS Radio a couple of hours ago, I find top-10 lists of most-dead people by food distasteful; all outbreaks are tragic, especially when a bug like listeria preys on the most vulnerable in society.

And the lists are so U.S.-centric.

What about Ontario (that’s in Canada): 1985, 19 of 55 affected people at a London, nursing home died after eating sandwiches contaminated with E. coli O157. Or listeria in Maple Leaf deli meats in 2008 – 24 dead.

Or Scotland (that’s over there). 1996, 22 dead and over 500 sick from E. coli O157 in roast beef sandwiches.

Earlier today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that 23 people had died and 116 people had been confirmed as ill with any of the four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes in cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Colorado. In addition, one woman pregnant at the time of illness had a miscarriage.

The deadliest-outbreak-in-25-years headlines soon followed.

The FDA and CDC have had teams in Jensen Farms fields and packing sheds, testing the soil, water and surfaces for clues. A report on the FDA’s findings is anticipated in the coming weeks.

About 800 laboratory-confirmed cases of Listeria infection are reported each year in the United States and typically 3 or 4 outbreaks are identified. The foods that typically cause these outbreaks have been deli meats, hot dogs, and Mexican-style soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. Produce is not often identified as a source, but sprouts caused an outbreak in 2009, and celery caused an outbreak in 2010.