Frozen Food Recall After Listeria Outbreak

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A food packaging company has extended a voluntary recall due to a scare over a Listeria outbreak.

The recall previously affected just 11 products, but has now been extended to 360 different organic and non-organic frozen fruits and vegetables. The fear is that they are contaminated with the Listeria monocytegenes bacteria, which can be fatal, writes Katie Mettler for The Washington Post.

Listeria outbreak from frozen food plant

Eight people across three states have been hospitalized by the outbreak, according to an announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday. Two patients, one in Maryland and the other in Washington state, have died. However the CDC says that listeriosis was not the cause.

The affected fruit and vegetable products were packaged at CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington, and affect 42 different brands. They were sold at grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s and Costco in all 50 U.S. states and some parts of Canada.

“The long shelf life of the recalled frozen produce is of particular concern because consumers could have purchased the products long ago and not realize they have them in their homes,” wrote Bill Marler, a personal injury and products liability attorney from Washington.

A full list of affected products can be found on the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website.

CRF Frozen Foods plant shut down

“We apologize for any concern or inconvenience this expanded recall has caused our customers and consumers who enjoy our products,” said a news release from CRF. “We are issuing this release to alert consumers not to eat these products. Consumers who purchased these products may return them to the store where they were purchased for a refund, or simply discard them.”

“Listeria monocytogenes is commonly found in soil and water,” according to the CDC. “Animals can carry the bacterium without appearing ill and can contaminate foods of animal origin, such as meats and dairy products. . ..When Listeria bacteria get into a food processing factory, they can live there for years, sometimes contaminating food products.”

Listeria is caused by eating food contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. The elderly, adults with weak immune systems and pregnant women are most at risk.

Listeria outbreaks not uncommon in U.S.

The infection can cause miscarriages, premature delivery, stillbirth and life-threatening infections in newborns if contracted by pregnant women. Common symptoms include fever, muscle aches and diarrhea, and it can be fatal if left untreated.

On April 23 the company issued a recall for an initial 11 frozen vegetable products. This week the recall was expanded to include all products that passed through the facility from May 1 2014 onward. Operations at the plant have been suspended.

Listeria outbreaks have occurred on a regular basis in the United States. Perhaps the most famous occurred in 2015, when Blue Bell Creameries recalled all of its ice cream products following the news that 10 people had fallen ill in 4 different states.

Three people eventually died in what was the first Listeria outbreak in Blue Bell’s history.

As recently as January 2016 salad mixes were recalled from a Dole processing facility in Ohio after consumers fell ill. 19 cases were eventually reported in 19 states, with one death.

Other Listeria cases have arisen in contaminated raw milk, prepackaged caramel apples and a number of cheese products.

However the deadliest outbreak involved canteloupe melons. The contaminated fruit came from Jensen Farms in Colorado in 2011, and eventually affected 147 people.

Thirty-three people died and 143 were hospitalized in 28 states. One pregnant woman who was infected later had a miscarriage.

The CDC has said that the latest case is “complicated” and claimed that an investigation is ongoing.

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