Contaminated Cantaloupes Killed 23 People. Why Not More?

Categories: Talking Points
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According to an article yesterday in the Huffington Post, the Jensen Farms listeria outbreak has now killed 23 people and sent 116 to the hospital, making it America's deadliest case of foodborne illness in several decades.

While the FDA investigates the farm to find out exactly how the farm's cantaloupes became contaminated, NPR's food blog asks a different question: Why didn't more of us get sick? After all, people in 25 states got sick, so presumably hundreds of thousands more cantaloupe eaters were exposed.

Apparently, people taking stomach-acid-reducing drugs are more at risk for getting sick, since the acidity in the gut kills off many of the bugs. And the average age of those afflicted is 78, and older adults don't have immune systems strong enough to fight off such a virulent bacteria. Those of us with locavorist tendencies may see this nationwide outbreak as a result of the industrialization of the food; the scientists interviewed by the NPR might agree -- the longer produce contaminated with listeria is stored, even in the refrigerator, the more the bacteria multiply.

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If we followed the usual simplistic SFoodie reasoning about "healthy" food, this story clearly shows that vegetables can be as toxic as "meat" and therefore just as "unhealthy."


I thought it was the American refusal to choose fresh produce over processed fat and salt that kept this from killing more people...

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