Listeriosis: Recent recalls in the US show fruit, veg could also be a risk

Several products have been recalled during 2017 and early 2018.
Several products have been recalled during 2017 and early 2018.

On 4 March 2018 Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the recent Listeriosis outbreak in South Africa was traced to an Enterprise food facility in Polokwane.

While this recent outbreak is deemed the largest in South Africa, with a death toll of 180 to date, the second-largest Listeria outbreak was in 2011 in the USA, where 147 fell ill and at least 33 died.

The source was melons (cantaloupe) from Jensen Farms, a large-scale melon farm in Colorado, USA. Since then, food safety is strict and a couple of products have been recalled recently because of strains of Listeriosis.

Think that processed meats are the only culprits? Think again. These products were recalled in the USA recently.

Disclaimer: All brand names mentioned in this article were listed publicly by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) website.

1. Vegetables

While some vegetarians may sigh a huge sigh of relief because meat products do not appeal to them, this doesn’t mean that they are completely spared from food-borne illnesses. Several vegetable products, including prepacked salads, broccoli, spinach, stir fry bags and butternut spirals were recalled in the USA throughout 2017.


2. Apples

You would think that a deadly bacteria wouldn’t lurk in something as seemingly healthy, natural and modest as an apple, but chew on this: in late 2017, several products containing red and green apple slices were recalled because they were potentially contaminated with listeria.

According to the FDA, the recalled apples slices were distributed in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin in retail stores and through distributors. A potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by the company Nyblad Orchards revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in a random single sample that was taken from related gala apple products.

green apples

3. Ice-cream 

For those with a sweet tooth, this is sad news as the deadly bacteria can sometimes lurk in your favourite creamy treat. Examples of the most recent recalls include ice-cream bars and ice-lollies from well-known USA brands Kroger and Purple Cow after potential contamination was noted during routine testing. While no illnesses were reported, the products had to be recalled as a safety precaution. 

ice cream

4. Nuts

Another seemingly innocent food type that caused recalls in 2017 were nuts, including cashews, macadamias and almonds. The discovery of potential contamination in these nuts caused the recall of several nut by-products such as cashew butter.


5. Hummus

In 2017 and early 2018, several brands of hummus were recalled across the USA, including the brand Trader Joe’s. According to the FDA, this issue was identified after routine FDA environmental sampling identified Listeria monocytogenes in the processing environment and in one sample of the product. Manufacturing of all foods has been voluntarily suspended while the FDA and company continue to investigate the source of the problem and eliminate it. 


6. Seafood  

In 2017, several seafood products including smoked salmon and seafood mixed bags were recalled because of listeria. A recent example of such a recall includes pre-sliced smoked salmon and other products from a brand called Springfield Smoked Fish. Production of this product was suspended while the FDA tried to identify the origin of the bacteria.

smoked salmon

7. Dog food

Be grateful that Fido can still enjoy his meal safely – in January 2018, the brand JustForDogs situated in California, USA, voluntarily recalled their Beef & Russet Potato, Fish & Sweet Potato and Turducken dog food meals as these products contained green beans that may have been contaminated with listeria.

According to the FDA, the contaminated product can affect animals eating it, but there is risk to humans if they were to intentionally or unintentionally ingest the dog food or come into contact with contaminated feces from a pet that has eaten the food.

Listeriosis is rare in dogs and when infected most dogs have mild symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting, but it can be fatal in some cases. While no canine deaths were reported, there were dogs suffering from short-term symptoms such as diarrhoea.

dog food

Image credits: iStock

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