DENVER (AP) — A food safety expert told Colorado farmers Thursday that last year’s deadly listeria outbreak traced to Colorado cantaloupe proved that they cannot rely on third-party inspections to guarantee their produce is safe.
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Larry Goodridge, associate professor at the Center for Meat Safety and Quality in the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University, told farmers that they bear primary responsibility for food safety.
“Each farm or processing facility has to be able to assess their own risks,” Goodridge told the governor’s annual forum on Colorado agriculture in Denver. “Everybody who produces food has to be responsible for the safety of the food they produce. You cannot rely on third parties. You just can’t.”
The listeria outbreak traced to Jensen Farms in eastern Colorado last year was blamed for the deaths of 32 people. It infected 146 people in 28 states with one of four strains of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Jensen Farms was given a “superior” inspection rating by a third-party auditor just before the outbreak.
The listeria outbreak that has killed up to 16 people and sickened more than 70, could get worse according to health officials, who are still in the process of trying to determine where contaminated cantaloupes might have been shipped. As AP reported :
Federal health officials said Wednesday more illnesses and possibly more deaths may be linked to an outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe in coming weeks.
So far, the outbreak has caused at least 72 illnesses — including up to 16 deaths — in 18 states, making it the deadliest food outbreak in the United States in more than a decade.
The heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said consumers who have cantaloupes produced by Jensen Farms in Colorado should throw them out. If they are not sure where the fruit is from, they shouldn’t eat it.
Neither the government nor Jensen Farms has supplied a list of retailers who may have sold the fruit. Officials say consumers should ask retailers about the origins of their cantaloupe. If they still aren’t sure, they should get rid of it.
“If it’s not Jensen Farms, it’s OK to eat,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC. “But if you can’t confirm it’s not Jensen Farms, then it’s best to throw it out.”