DENVER (CBS4) – Listeria linked to Colorado cantaloupe has now claimed another life.
Mike Hauser, 68, of Monument died Tuesday. That brings the total number of adult deaths to 34 people across the country. Several Coloradans are still suffering five months after the outbreak began.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says listeria bacteria can incubate for several months. Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture says they are now working closely with growers in the Rocky Ford area to help them develop testing requirements to prevent another outbreak.
Herb Stevens, 84, is one of many who the CDC says got sick from eating listeria-tainted cantaloupe. He’s recovering, but his daughter Jenny Exley says he’ll never be the same.
“He can’t be left alone for maybe more than a couple hours at a time because we’re worried about his balance and walking,” Exley said. “It makes me very bitter and very angry.”
Exley’s family is part of a growing lawsuit against Jensen Farms. The Food and Drug Administration says the Colorado packer had multiple locations where listeria grew to deadly levels.
Seattle-based attorney Bill Marler is now representing 45 of the 146 families affected across the United States.
“The medical bills for those people alone are over $5 million. Future bills for survivors will run into millions of dollars when you add in the pain and suffering these people went through,” Marler said.
It’s pain and suffering that Hauser’s family is currently experiencing.
“You think you’re just eating a cantaloupe. What could be wrong with that? But obviously the food sources are not safe here in the U.S. and everyone needs to be cognizant of that,” Exley said.
The FDA says they issued a warning letter to Jensen Farms last October and are still considering further enforcement options. Jensen agreed to FDA inspections before beginning to harvest and package food again.
The owner of Jensen Farms told CBS4 his farm is at a standstill. They would like to begin producing again but the FDA hasn’t shared the exact information they need about the source of the problem for them to feel safe that it’s been corrected.