WEDNESDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- The listeria outbreak traced to cantaloupes produced at a Colorado farm that has been blamed for 25 deaths so far seems to have been caused by unsanitary conditions at the farm, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
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.
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 Associated Press said messages left for the farm's owners were not immediately returned.
The health toll from the listeria outbreak now stands at 123 people sickened across 26 states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported late Tuesday.
The agency said that even though the cantaloupes in question were recalled in mid-September, more c
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