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It has been more than one month since Jensen Farms recalled its cantaloupes from the marketplace. By now, any melon that was not eaten, discarded or returned to the store should be “spoiled” beyond edibility. But this doesn’t mean that the public – and public health officials – can let down their guard.

CDC routinely updates the illness and death toll racked up by Listeria monocytogenes116 ill, 23 dead, one stillborn, as of October 12th. After a while, however, the numbers lose their ability to shock. It’s the individual tragedies that catch our attention.

Missy had this to say last week:

My granddaughter was stillborn this past Sunday (Oct 9th) in Ohio. Cultures showed mass amounts of Listeria in the placenta. Walmart is saying their cantaloupes did not come from this farm. Any chance that isn’t true? Trying to figure out what happened!

As of last Friday (October 14th), the mother of this stillborn baby girl was still in hospital on IV antibiotics.

The suffering that goes hand in glove with an outbreak of listeriosis has not let up – and it will continue for some time to come. Missy is not the only one who is trying to figure out what happened.

While consumers ask repeatedly in which stores the recalled cantaloupes were sold, the FDA, Jensen Farms, Walmart and Whole Foods Market remain silent.

While pregnant women wonder whether they were served Jensen Farms cantaloupe at their favorite restaurant or salad bar, the FDA and Jensen Farms remain silent.

While cantaloupe growers in Arizona and California watch the demand for their melons shrivel, the FDA continues its “root cause” investigation into Jensen Farms’ practices – and hasn’t released any new information since September 30th.

I have said this again and again. Consumers should not have to play detective in order to find out whether or not they have been exposed to the risk of infection from a recalled food. They should not have to rely on blogs like eFoodAlert for information on where a recalled food was sold.

Let me spell this out one more time.

  • USDA publishes retail distribution lists for all Class I (highest risk category) recalls within seven days of the recall.
  • California – a state that is struggling with huge budget deficits – publishes retail distribution lists, including for restaurants.
  • FDA, when asked directly where the recalled Jensen Farms cantaloupes were sold, replied that consumers should “ask their retailer.”

When is FDA going to wake up, put the health and safety of American consumers ahead of industry interests, and provide us all with timely and complete information?

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