Cantaloupe Farm 'Devastated' by Listeria Outbreak

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The Food and Drug Administration is warning shoppers to check the labels on their cantaloupe. The fruit is being blamed for a 17-state outbreak of listeria, a rare food contamination illness.

At least 22 people have been infected with the illness and two people have died.

The contaminated cantaloupes are thought to be from Jensen Farms, which produces 300,000 cases of the fruit each season.

The southeastern Colorado farm has voluntarily recalled the fruit after one of their Rocky Ford cantaloupes tested positive for the bacteria.

"We were informed that there was a positive test, but we don't know if it was linked to the outbreak," Jensen Farms spokeswoman Amy Philpott said Thursday.

The family-owned farm is devastated by the news. 

"We're deeply saddened that there's a possibility our familiy's cantaloupe could have gotten somebody sick and that is very," an emotional Eric Jensen said.

Some canteloupe farmers are speculating the bacteria came from an outside source.

"It came from an outside source somewhere other than the cantaloupe that infected the outer shell," Rocky Ford cantaloupe farmer Paul Casper said. "That's why I'm saying, this could happen anywhere and food preparation is key."

"We've taken something and made the listeria into a hysteria," said Ken Lusk, another Rock Ford cantaloupe farmer

The possibly contaminated cantaloupes were shipped between July 29 and Sept. 10 to 17 states from Arizona to New York. If you have one with a label that reads "Jensen Farms" or "Frontera Produce", the FDA says throw it out.

This is the first time the bacteria has been linked to cantaloupes in the United States.

Tammie Palmer's 71-year-old husband is in the hospital after eating a cantaloupe in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"I went over and started patting his face and I'm like, 'Chuck, what's wrong?' And he couldn't talk or anything, so that's when I called 9-1-1."

Palmer is now filing a lawsuit against Jensen Farms.

"It's just been pure hell, devastating," she said.

The bacteria doesn't get inside the cantaloupe until it's been sliced -- so to reduce the risk of contamination, wash and scrub the shell before cutting it.

Listeria symptoms can include fever, stiff neck, confusion, weakness, vomiting, sometimes preceded by diarrhea. Click here for more information on Listeria.

For more information, email Jensen Farms at or call 1-800-267-4561 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. MDT.

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Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

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Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at