Lawmakers call for hearings into cantaloupe Listeria outbreak


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Congressional Democrats are seeking an investigation of the recent Listeria outbreak in cantaloupe that has sickened at least 84 people in 19 states, including killing at least 15 in the deadliest food-borne incident in more than a decade.

Reps. Henry A. Waxman of Beverly Hills, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), the ranking member on the oversight and investigations subcommittee, called on the energy panel’s chairman to conduct the investigation.


The lawmakers want to better understand what actions industry and government could take to prevent similar outbreaks. They also asked the committee to request several documents from Jensen Farms, including a customer list and inspection records.

In a letter to Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the panel’s chairman, they asked for an investigation into the causes of the outbreak, including when Jensen Farms of Colorado learned of the contamination to its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes and when it notified customers.

There was no immediate response from Upton.

Separately, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees health spending, recently expressed concern about threatened cuts to food safety programs in the Republican-led drive to reduce the federal budget deficit.

A House Republican aide disputed that the cuts would affect food safety. “If we can’t trim even those dollars that the agencies themselves identify as ‘excess’ or ‘waste,’ how are we ever supposed to get the nation’s budgets under control?’’ the aide said.

States with reported deaths are Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. At least one California resident has been sickened, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which plans to give an update on the outbreak Tuesday.


Death toll from listeria-tainted cantaloupes rises to 15

Tainted cantaloupes: How long will Listeria outbreak continue?

Listeria outbreak: How do I know if I have it? What are the symptoms?

-- Richard Simon in Washington