Huge Recall of Frozen Fruits and Vegetables After Listeria Outbreak

An outbreak of a life-threatening illness that has been linked to foods packaged by a processing plant in Washington State has prompted a large-scale voluntary recall of frozen fruits and vegetables marketed under 42 brand names.

The scale of the recall reflects the severity of the outbreak of the illness, listeria, and of concerns about how the contaminated food might have “trickled down” into other products, said Brittany Behm, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The processing plant, CRF Frozen Foods in Pasco, Wash., has voluntarily recalled more than 350 frozen foods — including carrots, onions, peaches and strawberries — that were sold in all 50 states and Canada. The recall began on April 23, with 11 frozen vegetables, but was significantly expanded on May 2.

Eight people sickened with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes have been confirmed since 2013 — six in California and one each in Maryland and Washington, Ms. Behm said. All of the cases, involving patients 56 to 86 years old, resulted in hospitalizations.

The two people from Maryland and Washington died, but the authorities did not directly attribute their deaths to listeria because they may have already had weakened immune systems or other illnesses, Ms. Behm said.

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Listeria primarily affects newborns, older adults, pregnant women and adults with weakened immune systems. Symptoms can include a headache, stiff neck, confusion, fever and muscle aches.

Some of the affected products were sold under brand names such as Earth’s Pride, Panda Express, Signature Kitchens and Trader Joe’s, CRF said.

The number of illnesses may have been suppressed because the foods were cooked first, killing the bacteria. The first diagnosis came in September 2013 and the most recent was in March.

The C.D.C. said epidemiologic and laboratory evidence pointed to CRF as one “likely source” of the outbreak. Investigators were trying to determine if food sources used to make the products at the plant could explain some of the illnesses.

Until now, it is not clear that how many packages and recalled and how much loss the company is about to bear. Gene Grabowski, a spokesman of the company was called on last friday, but he didn’t respond. While talking to the “The Associated Press” previously, he told that we have closed the CRF plant a couple of weeks and our company is trying to find the source of contamination.

According to a website, Food Safety News, Food and Drug Administration inspectors inspected the plant during the mid-March and they found plastic materials that came in contact with onions. They also found some other minor voilations.

“The materials and workmanship of equipment and utensils does not allow proper cleaning and maintenance,” the inspection report said.

According to the company, they are calling all the frozen products processed at CRF’s plant since May 1, 2014. The company further explained that all the recalled products have “best by” date between 26th April, 2016 and 26th April, 2018.

The federal officials are worried that customers won’t monitor closely that whether these products are on a recall or not because these products don’t expire quickly as compared to other food items, said by Ms. Behm.

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