Wal-Mart, Indiana Grower Pull Fruit After Outbreak

An unidentified farm in southwestern Indiana is withdrawing cantaloupe from the marketplace following a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 141 people and killed two in 20 U.S. states, federal regulators said.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. also began contacting outlets last night and instructing them to withdraw cantaloupe grown in southwestern Indiana as a precaution, Dianna Gee, a spokeswoman for the retailer, said in an interview today. Sam’s Club isn’t impacted because they don’t source cantaloupes from the area, she said.

“At this time, we have no indication or confirmation that any of the cantaloupes were sold at Wal-Mart,” Gee said. “However, in an abundance of caution, we have voluntarily removed all cantaloupes sourced from southwestern Indiana until investigators can determine the exact source of contamination.”

As a result of initial investigations by state health departments, a farm in southwestern Indiana has contacted distributors and is withdrawing its cantaloupe from the marketplace, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said last night. The farm has agreed to cease distributing cantaloupes for the rest of the growing season.

Consumers who recently bought cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana are being advised not to eat them and to discard any remaining fruit, the CDC said.

FDA Investigating

Among those sickened, 31 were hospitalized, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said yesterday in a statement. Kentucky had the most reports of illness, 50, followed by Illinois with 17 and Indiana with 13, according to the statement.

“FDA officials are actively investigating potential sources of the outbreak, and will continue to update the public as more specific information becomes available,” the FDA said.

Almost a year ago, 146 people were sickened and at least 30 died from listeria linked to cantaloupe grown at Jensen Farms in Granada, Colorado. That outbreak was the deadliest in almost 90 years.

“It is great that state health departments give us the numbers, but why not the name of the farm where the cantaloupes were grown, and more importantly, what grocery stores they were sold at,” Bill Marler, a lawyer at Marler Clark LLP in Seattle who represents more than 40 victims of the Jensen Farms outbreak, said in an e-mail.

Salmonella, a bacteria, remains the most frequent cause of foodborne infections in the U.S. with an estimated 1.2 million people stricken each year and $365 million in direct medical expenditures, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported in June 2011.

Kentucky Tests

In Kentucky, two tests on the cantaloupes connected to the outbreak showed the same strain of salmonella that has stricken consumers in the state, said Beth Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The first illnesses began in the second week of July, she said in a telephone interview.

The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama, 7; Arkansas, 3; California, 2; Georgia, 1; Illinois, 17; Indiana, 13; Iowa, 7; Kentucky, 50; Michigan, 6; Minnesota, 3; Missouri, 9; Mississippi, 2; New Jersey, 1; North Carolina, 3; Ohio, 3; Pennsylvania, 2; South Carolina, 3; Tennessee, 6; Texas, 1; and Wisconsin, 2, according to the FDA.

Most people infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days and most people recover without treatment, according to the FDA.

In some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient may need to be hospitalized. In these patients, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other sites in the body and can cause death unless treated promptly with antibiotics.

(Corrects spelling of spokeswoman’s last name in second paragraph.)
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