By: Candess Zona-Mendola

Another one bites the dust, or rather, another company is voluntarily recalling more frozen produce products that may potentially be contaminated with listeria. Twin City Foods, Inc. of Stanwood, Washington is the latest supplier of frozen product to enter into a voluntary recall of its products – in this case organic peas – it received from CRF Frozen Foods, LLC with concern that they may be tainted with listeria. Unfortunately, it is not just the peas themselves that are being recalled, but rather all products that may contain them. The brands affected include: HEB, Central Market, Sweetfrost and Woodstock. The company claims there are no illnesses that trace back to them at this time. The affected products were sold in the states of California, Texas, and Washington.

For a recap of the April 23, 2016 recall notice and May 2, 2016 expansion of the recall, please refer to the previous post For Once I Am Telling You to Not Eat Your Peas. This post provides a breakdown of the brands, retailers, and products involved in the current frozen foods listeria outbreak for both the United States and Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan.

CRF Frozen Foods, LLC frozen produce is not the only hot – or rather cold – topic that involved listeria right now. Stahlbush Island Farms, Inc. of Corvallis, Oregon is recalling its frozen green beans that were supplied by an unnamed co-packer. The company claims no one is ill at this time and has only mentioned that its mysterious supplier is issuing a recall on its green beans.

It is worth it to repeat, here are something you can do now to help keep your family safe.

  1. Run, don’t walk, to your kitchen and raid your freezer. Visit the FDA cite here, here, here, and well here to find out if you even need to be worried. The most concerning factor of the outbreak at hand is that it is a long time coming and brands participating in the recall keep being added to the mix. You may have already purchased these products over a year ago and still have them in your freezer because of their long shelf life. When in doubt, double check! You may want to keep an eye out on upcoming updates on if any other brands are continually being added to the recall.
  2. Refrain from consumption. If you have found products that match (or you believe match) those mentioned by the FDA, do not eat them! Do not eat them even if you have already eaten from the bag or if they look perfectly safe. Even a little bit of listeria can cause illness.
  3. Be on the lookout. If you or anyone you love is exhibiting signs or symptoms of a listeria infection, it is encouraged to seek medical attention. It is good to maintain vigilance for a while, as these symptoms can manifest from a few days to up to two months.
  4. Wash everything. Wash the kitchen’s food preparation areas, counter tops, etc. Wash your hands, and often. Sanitize your dishes. If you are as paranoid as I am, even wash out your refrigerator and freezer. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration recommends you “sanitize them [the aforementioned areas] with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; then dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.” As previously noted, listeria is a hardy bacteria, which means it is prone to staying for long periods of time. Listeria grows in refrigeration temperatures and can cross contaminate other food cut and served in the same area. Wash now. Wash often.
  5. Spread the word. Let your friends, coworkers, neighbors, family, even your mailman know about this outbreak. The more people who know, the easier it is to ensure less people become stricken with infection. Retailers, such as Costco and Walmart, have posted notifications on their websites about the current recall. As they say, knowledge is power. Together, we can try to help others dodge infection.

The good news about this whole mess is that governmental agencies have been called to action. Once the Ohio Department of Agriculture found the contamination through a random sampling of products cut sweet corn and green peas, from a retailer, they went to work piecing together whether or not the strain of listeria found matched that of people who had made previous reports of listeria poisoning. Through genome sequencing and the very useful data reporting system now used by state and federal agencies, they were about to discover that the listeria found in the products sampled was closely related, genetically of course, to eight different ill people. Once these findings were deemed verified, CRF Frozen Foods, LLC was notified. The subsequent closure of the Pasco, Washington plant occurred and the massive product recalls.

The CDC, FDA, and state governmental agencies are working together to discover the origin of the listeria contamination, be it a product source or other supply chain that may be involved. We will not know the outcome of this for some time – if ever, as the FDA is prohibited from releasing public information about supply chains, as it is confidential commercial information. What we do know is that the FDA has outwardly announced that the investigation into this outbreak will continue “to determine what, if any, connection exists between the product sample isolates and the environmental samples.”[1] The FDA has also mentioned that it will continue to notify the general public as more information is found.

In the meantime, it is recommended that the general public take this outbreak and its recalls seriously. Listeria can be a severe illness, that can (and has) lead to death. The elderly, the young, those with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women should be on high alert. In pregnant women, listeria poisoning can cause fetal complications such as miscarriage, premature labor, serious illness in newborns, stillbirths, and even death in newborn babies.

 

[1] http://www.fda.gov/Food/RecallsOutbreaksEmergencies/Outbreaks/ucm499157.htm#Specific