WEDNESDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- The death toll in the listeria outbreak traced to cantaloupes produced at a Colorado farm has reached 29, with another 139 people sickened in 28 states, U.S. officials said late Tuesday.
Officials said recently that the outbreak appeared to have been caused by unsanitary conditions at the farm.
Inspections on Sept. 22 and 23 by federal and state authorities at the Jensen Farms packing facility in Granada found "unsanitary conditions where the [fruit] may have become adulterated," Sherri McGarry, senior advisor at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's CORE Network, said during a news conference last week.
Inspectors said the layout of the farm's packing facility allowed water to pool on the floor, making it hard to clean the floor and the equipment used to pack the melons -- and that could have served as a conduit for the germ to latch onto the fruit.
In addition, Jensen Farms did not cool its cantaloupes before placing them in cold storage, which may have caused condensation promoting the growth of listeria, McGarry said.
"We have no reason to believe, at this time, that these practices are indicative of practices throughout the industry," she said.
The plant, which was registered with the FDA in 2010, had never been inspected and was not due to be inspected for five to seven years, she added.
"The tragic deaths and illness from this outbreak have again demonstrated the need to continually address and improve food-safety practices," U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said at the news conference.
The agency said that even though the cantaloupes in question were recalled in mid-September, more cases might still emerge since Listeria monocytogenes infection has a long lag time between diagnosis and laboratory confirmation "and also because up to two months can elaps
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