WASHINGTON - Health officials say as many as 16 people have died from possible listeria illnesses traced to Colorado cantaloupes , the deadliest food outbreak in more than a decade.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that 72 illnesses and as many as 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.
Last week the CDC reported deaths in Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Maryland.
So-called "food investigators" are working around the clock trying to track the spread of the deadliest listeria outbreak in a decade.
It's believed the "bad" cantaloupes came from Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado.
The cantaloupes in question were shipped from July 29 through September 10. The farm says that in that time frame they shipped more than 1.5 million cantaloupes to two dozen states.
Public health officials say most of the bad cantaloupes have been recalled and pulled from grocery shelves, but urge the public to still use caution.
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