Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak Blamed on Unsanitary Packing Plant

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday outlined a chain of causes for the cantaloupe-generated listeria outbreak, saying that traces of the bacteria in the growing fields probably spread by truck to an unsanitary packing plant.

Contaminated water that pooled on the plant floor, hard-to-clean drying equipment, and no apparent pre-cooling of the fruit before it was cold-stored probably fueled a wider distribution of the bacteria, the FDA's report concluded.

All of the contaminated melons, which reportedly have killed 25 and sickened 123 in 22 states, were traced to Jensen Farms in Colorado. The farm is still being investigated, but the FDA said it was hopeful that the outbreak, the nation's most fatal food-borne epidemic since 1985, will subside because the shelf life of the cantaloupes expired weeks ago.

The farm recalled the cantaloupes on Sept. 14.