The New Mexico Environment Department on Wednesday issued the first recall notice to state produce retailers, requesting that all Listeria-tainted cantaloupes fruit be pulled from shelves after an outbreak warning was issued Monday.
The fruit, usually harvested in August and September and distributed widely in the U.S., reportedly carries listeria, or listeriosis, a rare yet serious illness caused by eating contaminated food, and is grown in the Rocky Ford region of southern Colorado.
After the outbreak spread across three states on Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began coordinating the investigation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Del Monte, a major seller of cantaloupe in the United States, sued the FDA and the state of Oregon over a cantaloupe recall in March of this year.
During the same month, the company then voluntarily recalled 4,992 cartons of cantaloupes, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella Panama, according to the CDC.
The CDC said this is the first Listeria outbreak in the U.S., which is concerning many New Mexican consumers and farmers, along with those in the six states where the fruit has caused multiple deaths.
Federal health officials are urging consumers to buy with caution because it’s looking more and more likely that a whole crop of cantaloupe from southern Colorado is behind the deadly listeria outbreak.
Albuquerque health officials say that is quite possibly what rushed the temporary recall.
“I think given the severity, and that there are fatal [cases], the FDA is doing everything they can, so we expect to hear fairly soon,” Mark DiMenna, an environmental health supervisor with the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department, told reporters.
So far, at least 15 cases of the listeriosis illness have been reported, 10 in New Mexico, two in Texas, and one each in Indiana, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.
The fatal cases in New Mexico included a 93-year-old man, a 61-year-old woman, and a 63-year-old man. However, the person who died in Colorado was not identified, CBS News reports.
Symptoms of the infection include fever and muscle aches, diarrhea, headaches, stiff neck and confusion, according to the CDC.