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I am a multimedia journalist currently working as a Senior Web Journalist/ Videographer with Khaleej Times in Dubai, UAE. Prior to this, I worked as a news editor with CNN’s Indian affiliate in Noida. I graduated from Syracuse University in New York state in 2012 with a Masters degree in Broadcast and Digital journalism. I have worked in video production, online journalism, features writing and market research over a period of four years.

Listeria in cantaloupes scares shoppers in Syracuse

Many people say they won’t buy cantaloupes at all

 By Nilanjana Gupta (SYRACUSE) –The listeria outbreak in cantaloupes has not only hit 19 states, but also scared shoppers in other states. Even though New York State has been steering clear of the deadly outbreak, many people in Syracuse now say they won’t buy cantaloupes at all.

Listeria outbreak ‘not a scare for local produce’

Cantaloupes at Jensen Farms near Holly, Colorado © 2011 Associated Press

More than fifty farmers and produce dealers sell locally grown fruits, vegetables, baked goods and flowers, at the downtown farmer’s market at Clinton square. However at this time of the year, nobody has cantaloupes.

“We do not get cantaloupes from other places around here in the states that I know of and our local cantaloupe season is over so I don’t believe that the outbreak this year will have anything to do with next year at all,” Chuck McFadden, Director of Operations, Downtown Farmers’ market, said.

McFadden says after the listeria outbreak, the Onondaga County health department did quality checks on the locally grown cantaloupes but found no signs of infection.

People say cantaloupes at local grocery stores are ‘risky’

But even though they are still available in local grocery stores such as Tops, Wegmans and price chopper, people we talked with say it’s not worth the risk.

“My older brother is telling me not to ever have cantaloupes again,” Emily Overend, a grocery shopper at the Farmers’ market, said.

Another grocery shopper, Carla Wallin said, “if somebody grew their own cantaloupes, I would buy it from a local producer… But not from the grocery store… I just wouldn’t know where it came from.”

Tops market is posting a disclaimer that says their cantaloupes are not sourced from Jensen farms in Colorado. Tops market is also offering discounts to sell its cantaloupes.

Lonnie Estrella, a grocery shopper at Tops said, “even though they have a disclaimer, I still don’t trust it… because you never know what has got mixed in… Rather wait and try other kinds of vegetables and fruits.”

Experts say Cantaloupes are ‘safe’ in Syracuse if handled with caution

The outbreak has killed 15 people and sickened at least 84 people in 19 states. Experts say cantaloupes are safe to eat if proper precautions are taken.

Jane Uzcategui, an instructor at the department of Public Health, Syracuse University, said, “you would want to choose a cantaloupe that looks robust and healthy. This is not the best example. You’d want to wash it with lots of cold water, set it on a dry paper towel to dry.”

Uzcategui says that elderly people, pregnant women and people with weak immune systems are at the greatest risk of listeria.

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