Some of the foods most commonly associated with Listeria are cold cuts, smoked fish, and soft cheeses. But a spate of recent recalls underscores that any kind of food, including fruits and vegetables, can pose a Listeria risk.
Listeria is a bacteria found in nature that thrives in cool, damp areas. When food contaminated with it is ingested, it can cause serious illness and death. People for whom Listeria poses the greatest risk are young children, seniors, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems. Among pregnant women, Listeria can cause miscarriage or stillbirth, even if the mother only experiences mild illness.
Since the beginning of the year, there have been at least four major Listeria recalls for fruits and vegetables including squash, green beans, avocados, sprouts, peaches, plums and nectarines.
Recent Listeria Recalls for Fruit and Vegetables
Listeria Recall for Avocados
On March 23, 2019 Henry Avocado Corp. of Escondido, CA issued a recall for California-grown avocados potentially contaminated with Listeria. At the time of the recall, no illnesses had been reported. The recall includes both conventionally grown and organic avocados packed at the company’s California facility in California and shipped after late January. The recall does not include avocados grown in Mexico and distributed by Henry.
Bean Sprout Listeria Recall
On March 8, 2019, Fullei Fresh of Miami, Florida issued a recall for organic bean sprouts potentially contaminated with Listeria. At the time of the recall, no illnesses had been reported. The recalled bean sprouts were sold at Whole Foods and Freedom Fresh stores in Florida.
Green Beans, Butternut Squash Listeria Recall
On February 25, 2019, Southern Specialties Inc. of Pompano Beach, Florida recalled bags of Marketside brand green beans and butternut squash for potential Listeria contamination. At the time of the recall, no illnesses were reported. The company believes most of the product was retrieved before making it to store shelves. But, some of the recalled vegetables may have been distributed to stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Listeria Recall for Stone Fruits – Peaches, Plums, Nectarines
On January 24, 2019, a recall by Jac. Vandenberg, Inc. of Yonkers, NY was issued for peaches, plums and nectarines potentially contaminated with Listeria. These stone fruits were sold in 18 states by large and small retailers including Aldi, Costco, Fairway Market, Market Basket, Hannaford and Walmart. At the time of the recall, no illnesses had been reported according to the company.
Fruit and Vegetable Listeria Outbreaks
Sometimes fruits and vegetables recalled for Listeria are linked to outbreaks such as the Dole bagged salad outbreak in 2016, the caramel apple Listeria outbreak in 2015 and the cantaloupe Listeria outbreak of 2012. Fatalities were linked to all of these outbreaks.
Dole Bagged Salad Listeria Outbreak
In 2016, a Listeria outbreak linked to Dole packaged salads sickened 19 people in nine states and caused one death in Michigan. One of the people sickened was a pregnant woman. The outbreak also included 14 people in Canada. One of these patients died although health officials had not determined if listeriosis was the cause of that death.
Health officials used Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) to determine the genetic “fingerprint” of Listeria cultured from each patient tested and determined they were all likely sickened by the same source. outbreak strain. Investigators in Ohio and Canada found the outbreak strain in bagged salads produced at the company’s facility in Springfield, Ohio. A recall was issued.
Caramel Apple Listeria Outbreak
In 2015, a 12-state Listeria outbreak linked to pre-packaged caramel apples sickened 35 people, seven of whom died. The apples used to make the caramel-covered treats were produced by Bidart Brothers of Bakersfield, CA, Outbreak investigators determined that Listeria isolates found on apples produced by Bidart Brothers matched the outbreak strain. A recall was issued.
Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak
The 2011 cantaloupe Listeria outbreak sickened 147 people in 28 states, 33 of them died. A pregnant woman who was among those sickened suffered a miscarriage. The outbreak was linked to cantaloupe melon produced by Jensen Farms, in Holly, CO.
Outbreak investigators determined that unsanitary conditions on the farm were the source of the outbreak including the use of packing equipment that was difficult to clean and standing water on the packing room floor. A recall was issued for the melons. The farm filed bankruptcy the year after the outbreak.