In recent months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have worked with public health officials across the country to determine the source of a recent listeria outbreak.
The outbreak — linked to frozen vegetables, raw milk, bagged salads and other food products — has sickened people in more than a dozen U.S. states. The cause is Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium found in soil, water and some animals (poultry and cattle).
Here are the three things the CDC, USDA and FDA want you to know about listeria and food safety.
Listeriosis can be a life-threatening infection.
While rare, listeriosis can be fatal. Primary symptoms include fever and muscle aches. Additional symptoms can include diarrhea, headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions.
There are three high-risk groups most affected by the disease:
- Adults over age 65.
- Those with weakened immune systems.
- Pregnant women - Infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or other delivery complications as well as serious illness or death of the newborn.
Do not eat the recalled products.
Check the frozen fruits and vegetables you have in your home and cross-reference them with those found on the recalled product list. Promptly return them to the place where you purchased them or dispose of all recalled products in a sealed plastic bag in a sealed trash can. You should also thoroughly clean the area in your refrigerator or freezer where the product was stored and wash your hands after cleaning.
Seek medical care if you have eaten recalled products and are ill.
It is possible to eat the contaminated products and not become ill. However, if you develop symptoms of listeriosis after eating the recalled fruits or vegetables, seek medical treatment and tell your health care provider that you have ingested food contaminated with listeria. Symptoms of listeriosis can appear up to 70 days after eating the recalled products.
- Avoid eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy products
- Rinse raw fruits and vegetables under running tap water before peeling, cutting, cooking or eating
- Scrub firm produce (especially melons and cucumbers) with a clean produce brush
- Dry washed produce with a clean cloth or paper towel
- Separate uncooked meats and poultry from vegetables, cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods
Dr. Chinn also recommends that you keep your kitchen and all food preparation areas clean, thoroughly cook meat and poultry, and store foods safely by following the USDA handling, cooking and storage guidelines.