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The Colorado cantaloupe crop that’s linked to 84 illnesses and as many as 17 deaths in 19 states has traveled so far and wide that producer Jensen Farms doesn’t even know exactly where their fruit ended up.

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The company said last week that it can’t provide a list of retailers that sold the tainted fruit because the melons were sold and resold. It named the 28 states where the fruit was shipped, but people in other states have reported getting sick. Now, many in the produce industry have come together to try and improve the ability to quickly trace food from field to plate.

This is good business. Large recalls, such as spinach in 2006, peanuts in 2009 and eggs in 2010, tend to depress sales for an entire product industry, even if only one company or grower was responsible for the outbreak.

Listeria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

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