As a deadly listeriosis outbreak causes nationwide concern, food safety experts at Colorado State University are launching a research project to better understand – and prevent – the spread of Listeria monocytogenes bacterium in cantaloupe.

CSU scientists said an outbreak report released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration underscores the need to examine how Listeria can survive and multiply in environments where cantaloupe are grown, processed, stored and eaten.

“This outbreak in cantaloupe is a warning. We need to learn a lot more about how the Listeria bacterium behaves throughout the food system in order to protect growers and consumers,” said Lawrence Goodridge, food microbiologist and associate professor in CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “We’re concerned about both farmers and consumers, and our research plan will reflect that.”

The interdisciplinary team of researchers plans to investigate the route of Listeria from farm to fork. They aim to identify potential problem points and solutions to protect the cantaloupe industry and consumers from future outbreaks of contamination and illness.

The research team includes experts in farming practices, foodborne pathogens and consumer food-handling practices.

“This outbreak of listeriosis is worrisome to all of us,” said Craig Beyrouty, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “It’s very appropriate that our researchers are investigating the issue because food safety is an area of internationally recognized expertise at CSU, the outbreak began in our state, and we are committed to helping both consumers and Colorado’s renowned cantaloupe industry.”