By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun
8:50 PM EDT, September 30, 2011
The family of a Maryland man who died of listeria is suing the Colorado melon farm that grew cantaloupes linked to a nationwide outbreak of the deadly bacteria.
The family of Clarence D. Wells, who died in August, filed the lawsuit against Jensen Farms and Frontera Produce in U.S. District Court on Friday, according to court records.
The family could not be reached for comment Friday.
Wells ate cantaloupe on several occasions during the weeks before his death, court documents said. He ate at least one melon grown by Jensen Farms.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but said in a statement that its owners were "deeply saddened to learn that cantaloupes grown on our farm have been linked to the current Listeria outbreak."
"Our hearts go out to those individuals and their families who have been affected by this terrible situation. We have been cooperating fully with public health officials who are trying to determine the source of the outbreak, and we will continue to do everything we can to assist them in their efforts," the statement says.
Wells began experiencing symptoms of listeria infection Aug. 23 when his daughter, Donna Kay Wells Lloyd, noticed he was retaining fluids and gaining weight. Lloyd, who lived with his daughter in Catonsville, then began having problems breathing.
He was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital two days later, where he remained for a week while his symptoms worsened. He died Aug. 31.
Lloyd's daughter received a letter from Baltimore County health officials Sept. 12 saying her father had tested positive for listeria.
Health officials later told Lloyd's daughter that the strain of listeria was "indistinguishable" from that involved in the outbreak linked to cantaloupes from Jensen Farms.
Jensen Farms voluntarily recalled its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes after listeria was found on the melons in several states. None of the cantaloupes has been found to have been sold in Maryland.
It is unclear where Lloyd brought the fruit.
Eighty-four people in 19 states have been infected with four strains of listeria associated with the outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fifteen people in eight states have died from the bacteria in what is the deadliest foodborne-disease outbreak in more than a decade.
The CDC said more deaths or illnesses could be reported in coming days because it can take up to two months for symptoms of listeria poisoning to appear.
Meanwhile, another listeria-related recall was expanded Thursday. True Leaf Farms of California announced it was expanding its voluntary recall of romaine lettuce to include 2,498 cartons of chopped or shredded romaine because of the "potential of contamination with Listeria monocytogenes." The bagged lettuce with a "use-by" date of Sept. 29 was shipped to distributors in Alberta, Canada, and 19 states, including Maryland. No illnesses related to the lettuce have been reported, the company said.
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