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It's Like a Kick in the Cantaloupes
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Ever heard of Listeria monocytogenes? No? Well, a professional opinion if you don't mind...according to the CDC and the previously noted link, it sucks. What's strange is this polysyllabic mind meld should be common knowledge by now, but because of Michael Jackson's doctor, a visceral loathing of all things politics, and Nancy Grace's nip slip on DWTS, no one knows what in the heck I'm typing.

Well, to be candid, neither did I — until a recent jaunt to my local grocer and a chance encounter with this vile, old woman.

You see, I like cantaloupe, so I went to the aforementioned produce section to partake of the wonderment. As I was thumping melons, (Yes, I said it), I saw this mild-mannered lady who went zero to ornery beeyatch in 3.2 seconds.

"Pardon me, son," she said, like I interrupted her new game of Bingo.
"Yes ma'am," I replied.
"Just what in the hell do you think you're doing?"
"If you must know, buying stuff," I snarled.
"You're gonna' kill yourself if you keep that (ess-bomb) up," she said loud enough to be on the friggin' P.A. system.

And that began the listeria science lesson from Granny Beelzebub here. I admit, I've been too caught up in other news stories to pay attention to what sounded like the plot behind the movie "I Am Legend." Evidently, from this USA Today article, as many as 16 people have died from an outbreak of listeria that has been traced to Colorado cantaloupes at the end of July.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that 72 illnesses, including 13 deaths, are linked to the tainted fruit. State and local officials say they are investigating three additional deaths that may be connected. The death toll released by the CDC Tuesday — including newly confirmed deaths in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas — surpassed the number of deaths linked to an outbreak of salmonella in peanuts almost three years ago. Nine people died in that outbreak.

Think about the PR hit — and respective ripples — something like has against everything and everyone associated with cantaloupe. For example, the outbreak has been traced to Jensen Farms in Holly, Colo., which recalled the tainted cantaloupes earlier this month. The Food and Drug Administration said last week that it had found listeria in samples of Jensen Farms' cantaloupes taken from a Denver-area store and on samples taken from equipment and cantaloupes at the farm's packing facility.

You think they will ever rebound from this? What about the people that work at this place? They may be working in a produce section next week rather than filling one. Then there are other farmers who have chosen to sell cantaloupes because of their rich density in potassium and vitamins A and B6. What about them? You think they are calling their buddies who cultivate bananas for tips? And now, we read from this MSNBC story, the witch hunt continues:

A Kansas food processor is recalling nearly 600 pounds of fresh-cut cantaloupe because of potential contamination with listeria linked to a deadly outbreak of food poisoning, federal Food and Drug Administration officials announced [last] Friday.

The FDA and CDC are doing their jobs to prevent any more loss of life or prevailing illness, but it's sad to think of everyone else affected by something we couldn't pronounce five minutes ago. So, in a strange way, I'd like to thank that cantankerous sow for looking out for me. I could have lis... list... lister... eh, I'd be really sick. Thanks, matron of the muskmelon. I owe you. (You know what I mean.)



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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is G.M. and PR Director at Bolt PR in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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