Press Release

September 16, 2011


Public Health Alert – Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Rocky Ford Cantaloupes

22 Persons Affected in Seven States

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. – The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), along with local health departments in Illinois, is collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria – in this instance linked to Rocky Ford Cantaloupes shipped by Jensen Farms in Colorado.

A total of 22 people infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from seven states, with illnesses reported since August 15, 2011. The FDA has also reported that the Rocky Ford Cantaloupes—which were voluntarily recalled by Jensen Farms on September 14—were distributed in at least 17 states, including Illinois. Both the FDA & CDC have recommended that consumers not eat Rocky Ford Cantaloupes from Jensen Farms.

The number of infected persons identified in each state is as follows:  Colorado (12), New Mexico (4), Texas (2), Indiana (1) Nebraska (1), Oklahoma (1), and West Virginia (1). The infected patients range in age from 38 to 96 years old, with a median age of 81. Most are over 60 years old or have health conditions that weaken the immune system. 20 of the 22 ill persons were hospitalized, and two deaths have been reported.

Listeriosis illnesses in several other states –including Cook County in Illinois—are currently being investigated by state and local health departments to determine if these illnesses are part of this outbreak.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of Listeria infection vary with the infected person:

  • Persons other than pregnant women: Symptoms, in addition to fever and muscle aches, can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.
  • Pregnant women: Pregnant women typically experience only a mild, flu-like illness. However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.


IDPH is reminding people to follow all food safety recommendations to avoid potential illness, as contaminated cantaloupes may still be in grocery stores and in consumers' homes.

  • Persons at high risk for listeriosis, including older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women, should not eat Rocky Ford Cantaloupes marketed as coming from Jensen Farms of Colorado.
  • Consumers who have Rocky Ford Cantaloupes in their homes can check the label or inquire at the store where they purchased it to determine if the fruit was marketed as coming from Jensen Farms of Colorado.  
  • Persons who think they might have become ill from eating possibly contaminated cantaloupes should consult their doctor immediately.
  • Rocky Ford Cantaloupes marketed as coming from Jensen Farms should be disposed of in a closed plastic bag placed in a sealed trash can. This will prevent people or animals from eating them.

General Melon Safety Advice:

  • Consumers and food preparers should wash their hands before and after handling any whole melon, such as cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew.
  • Wash the melons and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel before cutting.
  • Cut melon should be promptly consumed or refrigerated at or less than 40 degrees F (32-34 degrees F is optimal for storage of cut melon).
  • Cut melons left at room temperature for more than 4 hours should be discarded.

More information about Listeriosis and recommendations to reduce risk of getting Listeriosis from food can be found at the CDC's Listeriosis webpage .

More information about FDA Safety Recalls:

More general information about listeriosis can also be found at the IDPH website:

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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