358 products sold nationwide at Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Walmart have been recalled out of concern that they were potentially contaminated with listeria (1).
CRF Frozen Foods initially recalled 15 frozen vegetable items on April 23, 2016, but expanded the recall on May 2nd, 2016. It now affects all frozen vegetables and fruit produced by the company with best before dates between April 26, 2016, and April 26, 2018 (2).
The outbreak originated from their Pasco, Washington facility after two frozen samples tested positive for the life-threatening bacteria. It’s believed that many products manufactured or processed at this facility since May 1, 2014, are at risk of being contaminated (3).
The facility has been completely shut down since April 25th of this year as officials are attempting to control the outbreak.
The recall affects products purchased in all fifty U.S. states as well as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan.
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Why You Should be Concerned
Listeria is a bacteria that causes listeriosis, an invasive infection that quickly spreads beyond the gastrointestinal tract (4).
It’s the most lethal foodborne pathogen and can kill 1 in 5 of its victims.
So far, there have been 8 confirmed cases of people between the ages of 56 and 86 years old being hospitalized due to Listeria: 6 in California and one each in Washington and Maryland. The non-Californian patients have since died, but the infection was not considered to be their cause of death (5).
The Canadian food agency confirms that there have been no reported illnesses in Canada so far (6).
The Outbreak is Nothing New
The current outbreak was discovered early this year through routine testing by state health officials in Ohio, but this specific strain of bacteria has been around for a while.
In fact, the outbreak making headlines today began in 2013 with one victim, followed by five more in 2015 and two in 2016.
According to NPR, Michael Doyle, professor of food microbiology and director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia believes that “resident” listeria caused the outbreak. Unlike “transient” bacteria that contaminate a food and follow it , resident bacteria establish themselves in a processing plant and persist over several years.
Some People Are More Vulnerable to the Bacteria
Healthy people infected with Listeria typically experience mild short-term symptoms including high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Some may even present no symptoms.
On the other hand, young children, the elderly, and people with a suppressed immune system may experience fever, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, convulsions. The bacteria can also cause septicemia and meningitis.
Pregnant women are 10 times more likely to develop listeriosis than the general population and may experience miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn. This is problematic since the symptoms that affect pregnant women are non-specific and easily confused with the side effects of pregnancy.
What Products are Being Recalled
The North-American recall currently affect 42 separate brands of organic and non-organic broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, corn, edamame, green beans, Italian beans, kale, leeks, lima beans, onions, peas, pepper strips, potatoes, potato medley, root medley, spinach, sweet potatoes, various vegetable medleys, blends, and stir fry packages, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, peaches, raspberries, and strawberries.
Affected brands include:
- Bybee’s/Bybee Foods
- Columbia River Organics
- Northwest Growers Select
- Organic by Nature
- C.H. Belt’s
- Chef Maxwell
- Correct Choice
- Earth’s Pride
- Farmer’s Bounty
- Fiesta Mart
- The Inn
- Live Smart
- Live Smart
- O Organic
- Panda Express
- Pantry Essentials
- Safeway Kitchens
- Signature Kitchens
- Trader Joe’s
- Wellsley Farms
- Mity Fresh
- Overhill Farms
- Veggie Maria
- Life Foods
- Emerald Farms
- Great value
- James Farm
- Price First
- Season’s Choice
- Simply Nature
- True Goodness
- Wild Oats
- Woolworths Homebrand
Complete list here of recalled products can be found on the FDA’s website.
The Center for Disease Control urges customers who purchased these products not to eat them, but instead to return them to the stores where they were purchased and receive a full refund.
Consumers with any questions and concerns about the outbreak may contact CRF Frozen Foods by calling 1-844-483-3866.
To prevent listeria contamination in your home, be sure to always wash, scrub, and dry fresh and packaged produce. It’s also important to separate uncooked meats and poultry from other foods in your refrigerator and to clean your fridge with hot water and vinegar regularly.