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Cantaloupe-related outbreak of illness linked to 13 deaths

Jensen Farms is recalling Rocky Ford whole cantaloupes that were shipped between July 29 and September 10.

Story highlights

  • 72 illnesses have been reported in 18 states
  • The outbreak was first reported September 12
  • Illnesses linked to Rocky Ford cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms in Colorado

An outbreak of illness linked to consumption of tainted cantaloupes has been linked to 13 deaths and 72 illnesses in 18 states, a federal disease agency reported Wednesday.

The outbreak -- blamed on the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes -- was first reported September 12, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 15 people in four states had been infected. The illnesses were traced to consumption of Rocky Ford cantaloupes grown at Jensen Farms' fields in Granada, Colorado.

The deaths reported as of Tuesday morning occurred in Colorado (two), Kansas (one), Maryland (one), Missouri (one), Nebraska (one), New Mexico (four), Oklahoma (one), and Texas (two).

The illnesses occurred in those states as well as in California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, North Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Listeriosis primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC website.

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    Jensen Farms, which is based in Holly, Colorado, is voluntarily recalling Rocky Ford whole cantaloupes that were shipped between July 29 and September 10 and distributed to Illinois, Wyoming, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

    The cantaloupes bear a green-and-white sticker that reads: Product of USA- Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford-Cantaloupe or a gray, yellow, and green sticker that says: Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords.

    Unlabeled whole cantaloupe should be taken to the retailer for sourcing information, the FDA said.

    "Jensen Farms continues to stay committed to the highest levels of food safety and maintains many third-party safety audits, as we have for many years," said Ryan Jensen, a partner at Jensen Farms. "We continually look for ways to enhance our protocol."