According to an article yesterday in the Huffington Post, the Jensen Farms listeria outbreak has now killed 23 people and sent 116 to the hospital, making it America's deadliest case of foodborne illness in several decades.
While the FDA investigates the farm to find out exactly how the farm's cantaloupes became contaminated, NPR's food blog asks a different question: Why didn't more of us get sick? After all, people in 25 states got sick, so presumably hundreds of thousands more cantaloupe eaters were exposed.
Apparently, people taking stomach-acid-reducing drugs are more at risk for getting sick, since the acidity in the gut kills off many of the bugs. And the average age of those afflicted is 78, and older adults don't have immune systems strong enough to fight off such a virulent bacteria. Those of us with locavorist tendencies may see this nationwide outbreak as a result of the industrialization of the food; the scientists interviewed by the NPR might agree -- the longer produce contaminated with listeria is stored, even in the refrigerator, the more the bacteria multiply.