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21 Deaths From Cantaloupe-Linked Listeria Outbreak: CDC
Date:10/7/2011

, Alaska regulators announced that chopped romaine lettuce shipped from California had been recalled because of concerns the salad greens might carry the potentially fatal bacteria.

The lettuce involved in the lettuce scare comes from True Leaf Farms, of Salinas, Calif., which was notified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the pathogen was found in a random test sample, according to published reports.

True Leaf announced a voluntary recall last week of chopped romaine lettuce distributed in 2-pound bags by Church Brothers, LLC in Alaska. The bags carry a use-by date of Sept. 29 and a code of B256-46438-8. Anyone who has the questionable lettuce should discard it, CBS News reported.

Unlike other bacteria, listeria can flourish in colder temperatures. So, "if you've got a contaminated cantaloupe in your refrigerator, the listeria will continue to grow," Frieden said. "That's one of the reasons why we may see continued cases from cantaloupe already in people's refrigerators in the days and weeks ahead."

Although listeria tends to infect fewer people, it is typically deadlier than other foodborne pathogens and inordinately affects the elderly, newborns, pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system. People can develop meningitis from the organism, but many people only experience milder diarrhea.

According to the CDC, some 1,600 cases are reported annually in the United States, resulting in 260 deaths.

Listeria bacteria are also particularly dangerous because they can thrive at both room temperatures and refrigerator temperatures.

And "the incubation period can be quite long, as little as three days but up to two months," said Philip Alcabes, a professor in the School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York City.

The bacterium tends to grow in soil and water. "The concern would be that the outside of cantaloupe is contaminated [and] when you slice into it, the knife can carry b
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