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California cantaloupe industry hit hard by listeria fallout

This would normally be the season when farmers plan the summer crop that in good years is valued at nearly $200 million. Cantaloupe consumption is down nationwide 53 percent from before the outbreak.

From the L.A. Times:

Mendota — A tragedy 1,300 miles away changed a way of life in this Central California farm town that proudly calls itself the Cantaloupe Center of the World.

This would normally be the season when farmers plan the summer crop that in good years is valued at nearly $200 million, according to the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board.

Instead, they are cutting acreage devoted to the fruit and scrambling for ways to reassure a nervous public that cantaloupes are safe to eat.

In the fall, the deadliest food-borne illness outbreak in the United States since 1924 was traced to listeria-tainted cantaloupe in Colorado.

No matter that the tainted cantaloupes were all traced to one farm operation in that state. Consumer demand plummeted and in California's Central Valley, which produces 90% of summer-harvested cantaloupes in the U.S., the 2011 harvest abruptly halted. Hundreds of workers were let go. Farmers left fruit in the fields.

The stigma has only partially lifted since the fall. Cantaloupe consumption is down nationwide 53% from before the outbreak, according to consulting firm Perishables Group.

For more, see: California cantaloupe farms regroup after listeria outbreak

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