Don't tell Michele Bachmann, but it turns out that when food isn't adequately regulated, you can get giant deadly food poisoning outbreaks. Most recently, a crop of listeria-tainted cantaloupe has now killed 13 people officially, and possibly as many as 16 — shooting right past the salmonella episode three years ago that killed nine. This is the most deaths from contaminated food since a 1998 listeria outbreak that killed 21.
Listeria is no joke: It can kill as many as one in five of the people who fall ill from it. (The elderly and immune-compromised are more likely to be killed by listeria, but also more likely to get sick.) It can grow at refrigerator temperatures. And symptoms can take more than a month to show up, making it really hard to recall contaminated food in time. Jensen Farms, the Colorado farm that produced the tainted cantaloupe, recalled the fruit several weeks ago, but the CDC expects that we'll see more deaths as delayed symptoms start to manifest.
The FDA hasn't reached any conclusions on what caused the outbreak or what it would have taken to prevent it — but we're betting the one thing they won't say is that laxer regulation would have helped.
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