Report: Listeria Guidelines Ignored by Cantaloupe Farm Inspectors

The outbreak of the bacteria listeria that claimed 30 lives, sickened 146, and triggered one miscarriage this summer and fall could have been avoided if inspectors had properly reported violations they observed at the cantaloupe farm where the outbreak originated.

The FDA cited "serious design flaws" and a "lack of awareness" of safety standards at Jensen Farms as the likely sources of the bacterial contamination behind the deaths. But in a report issued this week, congressional investigators found the company that conducted a July safety audit at the farm, Bio Food Safety, gave it near-perfect marks despite finding three "major deficiencies."

In particular, it noted that the company washed its cantaloupe in water that was not treated with chlorine or any other anti-bacterial additive -- a process the FDA said was inconsistent with its recommendations and "a probable cause of the contamination." The inspector did not take points off for the finding, the report states.

The Centers for Disease Control declared the outbreak to be over, issuing its final report on the matter in December. Earlier this month, some brands of kosher cheese were recalled because of listeria concerns.

Image: Cantaloupe slice, via Shutterstock.

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