Dec. 8, 2011 at 6:26 PM ET
Government health officials issued a final tally Thursday for a months-long outbreak of listeria food poisoning in contaminated cantaloupe: 146 sick and 30 dead.
Those numbers reflected infections in 28 states tied to tainted whole melons from Jensen Farms of Holly, Colo., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Faulty processing and shipping practices at the firm's Granada, Colo., packing facility led to the dozens of illnesses and deaths -- and decimated the melon market in several states.
The outbreak is the worst since a California listeria outbreak in 1985 in which contaminated Mexican-style fresh cheese caused 52 deaths, including many stillbirths, according to the CDC.
Among 140 ill people who offered information about what they ate, 94 percent reported eating cantaloupe in the month before they got sick, including many who said it came from one region in southeastern Colorado. The outbreak of listeria monocytogenes, the first detected in melons, led to at least 142 hospitalizations and a miscarriage.
More than 310,000 cases of potentially tainted cantaloupes were shipped to at least 24 states between July 29 and Sept. 10.