Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals | Kathy Kliebert, Secretary

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DHH Investigating the Listeria Death of a Baton Rouge Woman

Epidemiologists determining whether the death is linked to recalled cantaloupe

Monday, October 3, 2011  |  Contact: Media & Communications: Phone: 225.342.1532, E-mail:

BATON ROUGE—The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) is investigating this weekend's death of an 87-year-old Baton Rouge woman caused by listeria. DHH epidemiologists are determining whether the listeria which killed her is the same strain of listeria that has killed more than a dozen people nationwide and linked to cantaloupes produced by Jensen Farms in Colorado. The woman's relatives have told epidemiologists that she ate cantaloupe two or three weeks ago.

On Sept. 14, Jensen Farms issued a voluntary recall of its Rocky Ford brand whole cantaloupes in 17 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. Jensen farms issued a news release Sept. 27 indicating that Louisiana, Indiana and Wisconsin were part of the Sept. 14 recall and that retailers that received the cantaloupes from Jensen Farms were notified on the same day and product was pulled from the shelves. Jensen Farms says it stopped shipping cantaloupes on Sept. 10. DHH was notified on Sept. 30 that Louisiana was included in the recall.

Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease primarily affects older adults, persons with weakened immune systems or chronic illnesses, pregnant women and newborns. Healthy adults and children occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill. If you ate cantaloupe in the past 3 weeks and are in one of the high-risk groups and you are feeling sick, with fever, muscle aches, nausea or diarrhea, consult your physician.

The important thing for consumers to know, and the only way to determine if they have the recalled product, is to check the stickers on the whole cantaloupe. The recalled whole cantaloupes have 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 reads: Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords. If it does not have a sticker, consumers should contact the store from which it was purchased to determine the source.

Cantaloupes that are known to NOT have come from Jensen Farms are safe to eat. If consumers are uncertain about the source of a cantaloupe they are purchasing or have purchased, they should ask the grocery store. A cantaloupe purchased from an unknown source should be discarded: "when in doubt, throw it out."

Consumers should also take the following precautions when handling produce:

  • Wash their hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling any whole melon, such as cantaloupe, watermelon or honeydew;
  • Scrub the surface of melons, such as cantaloupes, with a clean produce brush and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting;
  • Cut melon should be promptly consumed or refrigerated at or less than 40 degrees F (32-34 degrees F is best) for no more than 7 days; and
  • Cut melons left at room temperature for more than four hours should be discarded.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about DHH, visit For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.