By MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - 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 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. .
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)