Listeria Contaminated Cantaloupe Could Make Your Pet Sick

October 10, 2011

Frontera Produce Cantaloupe FDA FlickrA recent listeriosis outbreak due to contaminated cantaloupes has caused numerous human illnesses and deaths, but now some experts are warning of the public health implications for pets, as well.

Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes from Jensen Farm in Granado, CO, are reportedly the source of the potentially lethal bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes. At least 15 people have died and over 18 states have reported Listeria-related cases, according to the CDC, making this the worst outbreak of food borne illness in more than a decade.

Symptoms of Listeria infection are similar to the flu, and may include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and muscle aches. More severe signs include ataxia (loss of balance), seizures, and even death. People with compromised or underdeveloped immune systems, such as those who are juvenile, elderly, pregnant, or have cancer or another immunocompromising illness, are more susceptible to listeriosis. (See more here.)

Listeria is found in soil, water, and sewage, and is carried by some animals (cattle and poultry). Infection typically occurs post-ingestion of a contaminated food source, such as raw milk based foods and processed meats. Cooking and pasteurization kills Listeria, but contamination can occur post-heat processing, and the bacteria can thrive in temperatures associated with refrigeration.

Listeria (or any other harmful bacteria like Salmonella, and E. coli) can be transmitted to other people or pets if your hands are contaminated. Additionally, your face or mouth can harbor transmissible bacteria, so experts recommend against letting your pet lick your face (and vice versa).

The FDA recommends against consuming or giving your pet any Rocky-Ford brand cantaloupe from Jensen Farms, and disposing of any recalled product in a container safe from access to children and animals.

To minimize the likelihood that your animal and human family will be affected by a food borne illness such as listeriosis, the FDA offers helpful tips on produce safety, including purchasing, storage and preparation. Thoroughly washing the outside of any cantaloupe with soap and water can help remove debris and bacteria, but it does not guarantee that it will be bacteria free. Sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) solutions of 0.0314% or greater inactivate Listeria, E. coli and Salmonella, and can be used to disinfect the outside of cantaloupes, other produce, and any household surface — especially those where you prepare food.

Thank you for reading this article, which I originally wrote for petMD’s News Center.

Photo Credit: FDA Flickr

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Copyright of this article (2011) is owned by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr. Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr. Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

sally cameron October 10, 2011 at 8:20 PM

Patrick – Here is a good solution for a friendly and effective sanitizer your readers can purchase. I use it in the kitchen. It is a non-flammable, biodegradable quaternary product safe for the environment for food contact surfaces and food processing equipment.

Patrick Mahaney October 12, 2011 at 12:47 PM

Thank you for the awesome suggestion Sally. I hope our readers will take notice and be appropriately concerned about food safety for themselves and their pets.

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