The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a “food safety alert” over a deadly bacterial outbreak linked to whole fruits sold around the country.
According to the Nov. 23 CDC alert, three fruits sold by HMC Farms – peaches, nectarines and plums – may be contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in late October that samples of the fruits it obtained from HMC Farms tested positive for the pathogen.
The aforementioned fruits were sold in stores nationwide between May 1 and Nov. 15 in 2022 and 2023. One person has died so far, and nearly a dozen people have been hospitalized in seven states – California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan and Ohio.
The outbreak promoted HMC Farms, which is based in California, to voluntarily recall conventionally grown fruit that could be potentially contaminated with L. monocytogenes. No organically grown fruit was included in the recall notice. (Related: Listeria OUTBREAK linked to milkshakes sold at Frugals Tacoma causes three deaths, six hospitalizations.)
Consumers who purchased the conventionally grown peaches, plums and nectarines, individually or packed in two-pound bags, through Nov. 15 were urged to check their freezers as they may have frozen the recalled fruits for later uses. Recalled products were not to be consumed but disposed of or returned to their local stores for a full refund. Consumers were also urged to clean their refrigerators, containers and surfaces that may have touched the contaminated fruits.
The CDC said investigators were still determining if any additional fruit or products made with these fruits may have been contaminated. It added that the true number of sick people may likely be higher than the number reported because some people recover without medical care and were not treated for the bacterial infection called listeriosis.
Listeria infection: What you need to know
Listeria infection or listeriosis is usually caused by eating food contaminated with L. monocytogenes, which can be found in animal feces, soil, vegetation and water.
People can contract listeriosis through eating raw fruits and vegetables contaminated from the soil, or from contaminated animal manure used as fertilizer, contaminated meat, unpasteurized cheese or milk. If food is not prepared correctly, the bacteria can become more concentrated – and that’s when it can cause illness.
Pregnant patients are about 18 times more likely to acquire serious listeria infections with exposures. Those over the age of 65 and those who have compromised immune systems – those undergoing chemotherapy or taking medications for autoimmune diseases are also at high risk for listeriosis.
Like most foodborne illnesses, listeriosis can often have gastrointestinal effects, such as diarrhea, stomach cramping and vomiting, but sometimes it can also just be body aches, fatigue and weakness. Those symptoms can show up within 24 hours after exposure but sometimes, they don’t show up until 70 days after exposure.
Always practice basic food safety steps in food handling, cooking and storage. In every step, follow the four guidelines to keep food safe – clean (wash hands and surfaces often); separate (avoid cross-contamination); cook thoroughly to proper temperatures; and chill (refrigerate promptly).
If you’re immunocompromised or if you’re pregnant, take extra precautions, such as avoiding deli meats and raw veggies, fish that is lightly cooked, soft cheeses and so on.
Visit Outbreak.news for more stories about listeriosis outbreaks caused by contaminated food.
Watch this news report about the recall of nectarines, peaches and plums amid a deadly listeria outbreak.
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