By: James Peacock

Each week, we take a look at the recalls that have affected various consumer products. This week, Listeria monocytogenes and allergens combined to cause several recalls that affected cashews, frozen waffles and turkey sausage patties, pesto sauce, and macadamia nuts. As a consumer, it is vital to keep track of these recalls, because although the affected products may be removed from store shelves, they still may be found in homes. The recall process is the best ways that foodborne illness outbreaks are avoided.

Undeclared and Mislabeled Allergens

On May 22, 2017, a recall was issued for Meyer Lemon Mini Miracle Tart Party Pack of 6 due to the mislabeling of allergens. The voluntary recall was announced through the FDA by Hail Merry LLC, a Dallas, Texas-based company that specializes in making plant-based snack food. While cashews, the allergen in question, are correctly displayed in the ingredients list, it does not appear in the “Contains” statement found on the label. In order for an allergen to be properly declared, authorities require the ingredient to be listed in both places. The recall was issued after a consumer complaint was received by Hail Merry. The Meyer Lemon Mini Miracle Tart was distributed to retail stores nationwide. Products affected by the recall can be identified by the UPC code 816247010876 and has a net weight of 4.65 ounces. The packaging for the product is a yellow sleeve that surrounds a black tray that contains the product. No other Hail Merry products are affected by the recall, and the company has ceased distributing the affected tarts as of May 19, 2017. No reactions have been reported in relation to this recall, and the items will resume distribution within the next few weeks.

Three days later, on May 25, another recall was issued due to undeclared allergens. California Sun Dry Foods announced a voluntary recall of their Tomato Pesto because it may contain almonds and milk without those ingredients being declared on the label. This occurred because of a labeling error, in which the fronts of the jars were correctly labeled as California Sun Dry Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, while the back of the jars may be labeled as California Sun Dry Sun-Dried Tomato Garlic. The incorrect back label will have the UPC code 7-38203-10911-3, and will not label almonds and milk among the ingredients. The recall has only affected one code date, PTP0567A USE BY 25FEB2019. The product was distributed to retail stores across the nation, and the mislabeling was noticed when an employee was creating a display case for the products. There have not been any adverse reactions caused by this product to date.

Allergens pose just as much risk as foodborne illnesses, but are quite different. Rather than causing a bout of illness, allergens trigger an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction can occur when someone who is allergic to an item is exposed to it. Allergies can be caused by anything from animals and dust to food and medicine. There is a myriad of foods that can cause an allergic reaction, but the most common are wheat, gluten, eggs, milk, pine nuts, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and sesame. The severity of the reaction will also depend on the person, as they can range from a rash to deadly pulmonary issues. Common symptoms of an allergic reaction include itchiness, cramps, shortness of breath, and difficulty swallowing. If you or a loved one appears to be suffering from an allergic reaction, it is important to get them medical help as soon as possible. Allergic reactions will sometimes, depending on the severity, develop into Anaphylaxis, which is potentially life-threatening. Many people with severe allergies may carry an Epi-pen with them. This concentrated shot of epinephrine will help counteract some of the symptoms, but it is only temporary. If an Epi-pen is needed, the next thing to do is to get the affected person to a hospital immediately. Instructions for how to use an Epi-pen can be found here.

Listeria monocytogenes

Listeria monocytogenes contamination caused a few recalls in the last week, the first of which was issued by Golden Gourmet. On May 25 the Americus, Georgia-based company issued a recall that covered more than 5,000 pounds of frozen waffles with turkey sausage. Products affected by the recall are packaged in 7.1 ounce trays in cardboard boxes labeled “Waffles, Turkey Sausage Patty with Sliced Apple Seasoned with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon”. The establishment number P-51269 can be found inside the USDA mark of inspection. There are several different lot numbers affected by the recall, including 2016355, 2016363, 2016364, and 2016362. The Use By dates included in the recall are 06/21/18, 06/28/18, 06/29/18, and 06/30/18. Affected products were shipped to retail locations in Tennessee, South Carolina, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, and Georgia. The recall comes on the heels of Golden Gourmet being notified by their supplier that the waffles contained in the frozen entrees were potentially contaminated with Listeria bacteria. No cases of illness have been reported in relation to this recall.

Another recall, issued on May 26, 2017, also was caused by Listeria bacteria. The recall, voluntarily issued by Hampton Farms, is for Ava’s brand Organic Cashews Roasted & Salted. The distributor had sent 8 ounce tubs of cashews to retail stores in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. While internal testing revealed only negative results for foodborne pathogens, Hampton Farms was notified by their supplier that there may be a contamination. The reports of contamination came from another company that had been supplied cashews. Subsequent testing revealed that some of the supplier’s equipment was contaminated, leading to the recall in question. Products affected by the recall have been removed from store shelves, and Hampton Farms has reported that less than 225 units were offered for sale prior to the recall. Affected products can be identified by the UPC code 810111010351 and by the Best By date 4/28/18. All affected products came from the lot 11817-L2. No other Ava’s brand products have been linked to this recall, and there have not been any reports of illness to date.

Lastly, there was a recall issued by Kroger relating to Simple Truth brand Roasted Macadamia Nuts. The recall, issued on May 22, 2017, affects products that were shipped to Kroger locations in the Greater Cincinnati area, which includes Northern Kentucky, Dayton, and South Eastern Indiana. Dillons, Baker’s, and Gerbes stores are also affected. The macadamia nuts under recall are packaged in a 12 ounce bag, and can be identified by the UPC code 1111002478. Recalled products are marked with a Sell By date of MAY 02 18. Kroger is offering a full refund if the products are returned to the store. Information about how the macadamia nuts became contaminated, where they were grown, and whether anyone has gotten sick is unknown.

Listeria is one of the less common forms of food poisoning, but it is still a very dangerous pathogen. Causing about 1600 illnesses a year, as estimated by the CDC, Listeria poisoning can manifest itself in one of two forms. In those with relatively healthy immune systems, Listeria presents itself as a gastrointestinal illness, causing symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In some cases though, and especially in the elderly and immunocompromised, Listeria can turn invasive, causing headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. Invasive Listeria is potentially fatal, as it can enter the nervous system and cause meningitis. Pregnant women are also at an increased risk of developing a serious case of Listeria poisoning. Listeria may cause a flu-like infection in pregnant women, but can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. These symptoms can appear anywhere between 3 and 70 days after the Listeria bacteria is ingested. If you or a loved one begins to show the symptoms of Listeria poisoning, contact a medical professional.