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FDA To Visit Jensen Farms To Determine Source Of Listeria

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Cantaloupe (credit: CBS)

Cantaloupe (credit: CBS)

HOLLY, Colo. (CBS4) – More deaths are being reported among people who ate Colorado cantaloupe tainted with listeria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says eight people nationwide have died after getting sick.

The victims lived in Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Fifty-five people in 14 states have gotten sick from contaminated cantaloupes. The melons have been traced to Jensen Farms near the town of Holly in Prowers County.

The Food and Drug Administration will be at Jensen Farms later this week to try to determine how the melons got contaminated. In the meantime farmers throughout the region are feeling the impact.

The cantaloupes were labeled Sweet Rocky Fords. But 85 miles away in the town of Rocky Ford, farmers like Bill Sackett are suffering nevertheless.

“They’ve been using Rocky Ford name, which I guess is legal, I don’t know, to produce cantaloupe way out of the valley, way out of the our area,” Sackett said.

Sackett doesn’t think Jensen Farms should be using the Rocky Ford name. He blames the state for being too broad with its initial warnings.

“Early on, that’s what we heard from patients, that they had eaten Rocky Ford cantaloupe and so we had to communicate that to the public,” said Dr. Chris Urbina, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director.

Get insight on listeria from Dr. Dave Hnida in the video below:

Once the source was traced just to Jensen Farms all other melons were deemed okay to eat.

The farm has many possible sources for the bacteria — transportation, equipment, a packing facility in nearby Granada, and the water.

Dr. Mike Bartolo at Colorado State University’s Arkansas Valley research facility pointed out farmers are now using the plastic to prevent contamination of melons from the soil and the water.

The Jensen Farms cantaloupes have been recalled. One of the owners, Eric Jensen, last week said he was sorry their cantaloupe was involved and they could not even speculate at the source.

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