Buyers flock to local canteloupe in wake of listeria outbreakFargo, ND (WDAY TV) - It's the deadliest food outbreak in the US in more than a decade. So far the listeria outbreak in cantaloupe has sickened 72 people in 18 states. That includes one in Stutsman County. But do we have anything to worry about in Fargo-Moorhead?
It's the deadliest food outbreak in the US in more than a decade. So far the listeria outbreak in cantaloupe has sickened 72 people in 18 states. That includes one in Stutsman County. But do we have anything to worry about in Fargo-Moorhead? And how do Farmers Markets fair when a crisis like this happens?
Bill Erbes has been selling his produce for almost 25 years. Every time there's a nationwide crisis like this, he says more shoppers go to the people they trust.
Bill Erbes – Farmer’s Market, Dike East Park: “They know who grows it, they know where it's grown, who grows it. If they have any questions, they can ask the farmer.”
A wet spring resulted in a less than average yield for cantaloupe growers in Southeast North Dakota. Now with only a few locally grown left in the area, produce buyers are scooping them up.
Ilene Anderson - Fargo: “I was going to come anyway, and I saw he had cantaloupe so I thought here's my chance to get a safe cantaloupe.”
We spoke with managers at all three major grocery chains in the Fargo-Moorhead area, including here at Hornbachers. They all assured us the cantaloupe they are selling is harmless. But still, many customers told us in situations like this, they'd rather buy from farmers markets.
Ilene Anderson: “I like buying from the area and I like how fresh everything is.”
The source of the outbreak was Jensen Farms cantaloupes in Colorado. The FDA says consumers need avoid cantaloupes labeled "Colorado Grown," distributed by Frontera Produce, Jensenfarms.com, or Sweet Rocky Fords. But as long as you've been purchasing all your produce in the Fargo-Moorhead area, you can stop pressing the panic button.
With the number of cases sure to increase, North Dakota Public Health officials are stressing the importance of proper food handling. Epidemiologist Stacy Lovelace says the listeria bacteria are rare, but dangerous. The bacteria shows up on raw foods, and enters the body when digested. It can also come from cross contamination when preparing foods on the same surface. People need to remember to always wash their fresh produce to eliminate all surface bacteria. Lovelace says listeria can have a latency period of up to two months.
Stacy Lovelace – Epidemiologist, ND Department of Health: “It can take up to two months before you get symptoms from when you eat it, so when we do the interviews to try to figure out how people get sick, we have to ask them what they ate two months ago, so it makes it more difficult.”
The disease primarily affects pregnant women, newborns, people with weakened immune systems and the elderly.