Deadly cantaloupe listeria outbreak blamed on non-chlorinated wash

The enviro war against chlorine claims more victims.

From the House Energy and Commerce report about the 2011 outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe:

… According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 146 people in 28 states have been infected, 30 people have died, and one person has miscarried as a result of this outbreak. It was the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in over 25 years…

On [sic] precaution that Jensen Farms took in 2010, which it dropped in 2011, was to use an antimicrobial solution, such as chlorine, in the cantaloupe wash water. The front page of the August 2010 audit stated, “[t]his facility packs fresh cantaloupes from their own fields into cartons. The melons are washed and then run through a hydro cooler which has chlorine added to the water. Once the product is dried and packed into cartons it is placed into coolers”…

FDA officials emphasized to Committee staff that the new processing equipment and the decision to use a packing and washing technique involving non-chlorinated water were two probable causes of the outbreak. Both of these significant changes were implemented at the packing facility in 2011. [Emphasis added]

Here’s another example of the enviros’ deadly war against chlorine.

As Michael Fumento And Michelle Malkin pointed out in “Rachel’s Folly: The End of Chlorine” (March 1996):

There is no plainer example of the health benefits of chlorine, and the health risks of its absence, than the cholera epidemic in Latin America. In February 1991, the first cholera outbreak to hit Peru since the turn of the century was reported. According to the journal Nature, U.S. and international health officials blamed the occurrence on Peruvian government officials who made a “gross miscalculation” in not chlorinating the water supply.

Local water officials in Lima had decided to stop chlorinating many of the wells because U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies conducted in the mid-1 980s showed an increased hypothetical cancer risk from trihalomethanes (THM), a chlorination byproduct. One of those studies (based on high-dose experiments on animals exposed over their lifetimes) estimated a risk of up to 700 additional cancer cases per year in the U.S. from THMs; by contrast, however, the Latin American cholera epidemic claimed nearly 4,000 lives in 1991 alone.

EPA administrators denied that risk communication failures on their part could be faulted for touching off the epidemic. Many researchers, however, questioned whether EPA should have given more emphasis to the disaster potential of not disinfecting municipal water supplies. Whatever the actual impact EPA calculations had in Lima, a follow-up study in Peru’s second largest city, Trujillo, pointed to the two bottom-line causes of the outbreak and its rapid spread. Plain and simple, they were lack of chlorinators and a shortage of funds to buy them.

Preliminary data examined by Mintz et al. suggest that intervention costs for point-of-use disinfection in developing countries is low: “The annual cost per family for both a special water storage vessel and (chlorinated) disinfectant, for the shortest estimated useful life of the vessel and the highest cost of hypochlorite, would be between $1.17 and $1.62, an amount affordable almost anywhere in the world.” In the March 1995 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers endorsed the expanded use of sodium and calcium hypochlorite – deemed “relatively safe, easy to distribute and use, inexpensive, and effective against most bacterial and viral pathogens” – to prevent persistent waterborne disease. In addition to cholera, these infectious diseases include typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery, bacterial gastroenteritis, shigellosis, salmonellosis, Campylobacter eteritis, Yersina enteritis, Pseudomonas infections, schistosomiasis, giardiasis and various viral afflictions, such as hepatitis A.

In a campaign to increase access to potable water in poor countries, the World Health Organization declared the 1 980s the “Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation” decade. Access to proper chlorination, however, remains a major barrier and efforts to improve both municipal water treatment and home storage techniques continue. At last count, the WHO estimated that 25 million people – 70,000 per day, mostly children under five – die around the world each year from dirty drinking water. While nonchlorine disinfectants like iodine, ozone and short-lived free radicals have been used to treat water on a limited basis, none has demonstrated the safety and cost-effectiveness of chlorination.

As the Latin American cholera epidemic escalated, environmental activists a world away were building their arsenal against chlorine. Greenpeace, the international environmental advocacy group, launched the first salvo in early 1991 with its call to phase out completely “the use, export, and import of all organochlorines, elemental chlorine, and chlorinated oxidizing agents (e.g. chlorine dioxide and sodium hypochlorite).” As Greenpeace’s Joe Thornton concluded, “There are no uses of chlorine which we regard as safe.” [Footnotes omitted]

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