Costco and Trader’s Jo are the latest food producers to be implicated in the 2016 listeria frozen food outbreak. Both of the companies have pulled their frozen fruits and vegetables products from the grocery aisles, especially in Sacramento region, as a result of the listeria outbreak.
The original listeria outbreak was announced by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the 3rd of May, and has since then resulted in two separate multistate recalls by the food companies. The outbreak announcement by CDC in collaboration with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first urged Costco to voluntarily remove their frozen products from seven of their stores in Sacramento.
The CDC has estimated listeriosis causes about 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths in the US on an annual basis. The 2016 listeria outbreak originally started back in March 2016. The recall has since then encompassed 42 food brands and 358 of their frozen vegetable products. Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence collected by the CDC and FDA found that all of the contaminated frozen products were originally produced at the CRF Frozen Food plant in Wasco, Washington, which has stopped all manufacturing operations.
The fruit and vegetable products are from both the organic and traditional quality and were packaged at the same location and then sold under various brand names. According to the CDC press release, consumers are advised against consuming any of the products listed in the recall. Restaurant owners and retailers are also warned against selling or serving any products mentioned in the recall. A complete list of the recalled frozen products can be found on the FDA website.
The currently recalled frozen products in Sacramento include brand names such as ‘Organic by Nature’, ‘Columbia River Organics’ and ‘Farmer’s Bounty’. The contaminated edible items include corn, edamame, raspberries, potatoes, kale, cherries and peas.
According to Costco, consumers can identify the recalled products by looking at the product’s “sell-by dates” expiry labels. The listeria contaminated products have a manufacture date of April 26, 2016, and will be best until April 26, 2018.
“They can throw the product away or return them for a full refund,” said Craig Wilson the Costco vice president of food safety.
Another development coming to light is a separate listeria recall by Trader Joe’s, also in the Sacramento region. It seems the food company is in double trouble when it comes to a listeria recall since they are not involved in just one but two recalls. Trader Joe’s has removed all of their products known by the name of “Trader Joe’s Broccoli Slaw & Kale Salad with White Chicken Meat”.
According to Trader’s Jo chain spokeswoman, Alison Mochizuki, they have removed their products from seven different stores in the Sacramento region, after the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service found listeria in one of their ingredients, sunflower seeds. The recalled products, packaged in 9.3-ounce plastic containers, have an expiry label which states “use-by date” of May 2nd to 7th 2016, along with the establishment number “P-17156”. These products were processed at a Ghiringhelli Specialty Foods plant in Vallejo.
“We are asking for customers to dispose of the product or bring it back to us for a refund or exchange,” said Mochizuki.
The 2016 listeria outbreak has so far resulted in two ill individuals, who reported buying and eating frozen vegetables in the month before they fell sick. Around the same time the Ohio Department of Agriculture tested packages of frozen vegetable and found listeria in brands produced by CRF Frozen Foods.
The CDC uses the PulseNet system, which also has a national database which enlists all possible outbreaks. The system identifies the bacterial infections by performing the DNA “fingerprinting” technique on the listeria bacteria isolated from the infected individuals.
For those who don’t know, Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes through consumption of contaminated food. Listeriosis is considered a serious public health problem in the US since it can affect a vast majority of groups such as older adults, pregnant women, newborns and adults.
Listeriosis can be identified by symptoms such as diarrhea or other gastrointestinal complications which then lead to fever, fatigue headache, stiff neck, confusion and muscle aches. According to the CDC, almost all cases of listeria infections are “invasive” infections i.e., the bacterium spreads to other parts of the body from the gastrointestinal tract.
Listeria infection in pregnant women is especially critical and can even lead to medical complications which affect the fetus such as miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
According to the FDA, to prevent chances of contracting Listeriosis, consumers should thoroughly cook their food in a hygienic manner, which is the only way to completely kill the bacteria. The press release states:
“The FDA urges consumers to not eat any of the recalled products and to check their homes for the recalled fruit and frozen vegetable products. CRF Frozen Foods directs any consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund, or discard them.”