Barb Ingham, UW-Extension Food Science Specialist
Professor, Department of Food Science
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Barb Ingham talks about Listeria and the recent outbreak linked to cantaloupe
3:01 – Total Time
0:18 – What Listeria is
0:32 – What Listeria does
0:57 – The recent cantaloupe recall
1:32 – How to protect yourself
2:52 – Lead out
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Sevie Kenyon: Barb, welcome to our microphone. I’d like you to start out by telling us what Listeria is.
Barb Ingham: Listeria is a bacterium, it’s actually found in soil and water. We can find it in animals that may harbor the organism as well listeria can also be found simply in the environment.
Sevie Kenyon: And Barb, how does Listeria behave?
Barb Ingham: With the outbreak that we have linked to cantaloupe going on across the United States these days, most recent estimates are 116 people being sickened by listeriosis, and 23 of them having died, so about a quarter of those who’ve been infected have died and that’s a really high mortality rate for for a bacterial illness such as this.
Sevie Kenyon: What can you tell us about the recent outbreak?
Barb Ingham: You know, it’s really a puzzle right now. We know that the organism has been found at the farm, Rocky Ford brand cantaloupe that particularly are linked. Things that the investigators are looking at are the water supply, they are also looking at animal movement on the farm and whether or not that was an issue.
Because it’s Listeria, they’re also looking at the packing facilities how the fruits were handled. Those were compounding factors that I think the investigators believe may have led to this national recall that we’re currently experiencing.
Sevie Kenyon: Barb, what kinds of things should people do to protect themselves?
Barb Ingham: Because cantaloupe is different, lets think about some things that you can do specifically when handling cantaloupe or other melons in general the same things would be true for watermelons and honeydews or other types of melons. We would encourage consumers to purchase cantaloupes that aren’t bruised or damaged, and those are ones to stay away from. If the melon or the cantaloupe specifically has been cut, only buy it if it’s cold. Don’t buy something that’s already cut and is sitting out at room temperature. Refrigerate the cantaloupe promptly…even though we know that Listeria can grow in the refrigerator, we want to provide as many hurdles as possible.
I actually recommend when you bring it home, before you’re going to slice into it, that you would actually dip that melon into a dilute bleach solution, and that’s just to help to remove any contamination that may be on the surface. Make sure you use clean utensils and cutting boards so you aren’t introducing contamination to the fruit itself, and then making sure that you refrigerate the cantaloupe rapidly after you cut into it. If it’s been out more then two hours, absolutely discard it. The other thing I think we need to think about there’s certain portions of our populations that probably shouldn’t eat certain types of things, and so this would be the elderly, those who are very young, those with compromised immune systems, and for Listeria in particular, pregnant women. You know, cantaloupe, probably if I was pregnant, wouldn’t be on my diet list right now.
Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Barb Ingham, Department of Food Science, University of Wisconsin in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, Wisconsin and I’m Sevie Kenyon.