Wawona Packing Company, based in California, has issued a voluntary recall on stone fruits including peaches, nectarines, plums and pluots. The recall is due to possible listeria contamination and includes fruits sold at major grocery outlets including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s. Listeria is particularly dangerous for those with weak immune systems, such as young children and the elderly. Internal testing at Wawona led to the discovery of trace amounts of listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria that causes the disease. As these type of recalls become increasingly common, medical professionals should be prepared to answer questions regarding the possible spread of foodborne diseases. Fighting off dangerous foodborne diseases could be one of the next important developments in pharmacy technology.
Listeria infection is a foodborne illness that normally spreads by improperly processed meats or unpasteurized milk products.1 Major culprits include deli meats, hotdogs and smoked seafoods, as well as soft cheeses. For that reason it is surprising that listeria was found in stone fruits, especially since produce is washed and disinfected. The bacterial infection, known as listeriosis, is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems, and can be fatal to unborn babies and newborns.2 People with conditions that cause weak immune systems are at a higher risk of experiencing life-threatening complications, but a prompt diagnosis can lead to curing the disease with antibiotic treatment.3 After a doctor’s diagnosis, antibiotics can be picked up from your local pharmacy technician. Listeria can survive cold conditions, so, contrary to most bacteria, refrigeration and freezing foods doesn’t necessarily kill the germs present. People with weak immune systems should try to avoid foods that are more likely to harbor listeria monocytogenes.
Listeria is the third leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States, but leads to fatalities mainly in a small percentage of the population that is highly sensitive to the bacteria.4 In 2011, cantaloupes contaminated with listeria were linked to 33 deaths in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control found that the cantaloupes came from a farm in Colorado that was not properly disinfecting the fruit before distributing it.
Initial symptoms of listeria include fever, nausea, muscle aches and diarrhea.5 If the disease infects the nervous system more serious symptoms such as stiff neck, loss of balance and convulsions may occur.6 Some of these symptoms may be subtle, and it is recommended that those people that have eaten food that has been recalled pay close attention for these signs of listeria. If a potentially infected person experiences one or more of the symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
The recall focuses on fruit that was shipped by the company between June 1 and July 12. However, Wawona Packing Company states that it does not know the locations of those companies that purchased the products, making it difficult to measure how widely the potentially contaminated fruits were distributed.7 According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, no illnesses have been linked to the recall at this time.8 The bacteria was found at extremely low levels on fruit being shipped to Australia. However, the recall is nationwide, as the United States has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to the bacteria.9
Whole Foods is also advising its customers not to eat salsas, tarts, cakes and salads that may have been prepared in the store with the infected fruit.10 The company has taken these items off its shelves and destroyed them, and is offering customers a full refund for any potentially hazardous food purchased. Additionally, Trader Joe’s has urged customers to not eat any stone fruit purchased from the store and return it for a refund.11 Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., has recalled baked goods that possibly contain contaminated fruits. The baked goods include pies, tarts, cakes and other pastries.12
The FDA and USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service suggest using food safety best practices. This includes washing all fruit before consuming it and regularly cleaning food preparation and storage areas.
1“Listeria Infection Definition” by Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/listeria-infection/basics/definition/con-20031039
2“Listeria Infection Definition” by Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/listeria-infection/basics/definition/con-20031039
3“Listeria Infection Definition” by Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/listeria-infection/basics/definition/con-20031039
4“Should You Worry? What You Need To Know About The Listeria Fruit Recall” by David Kroll. Forbes. July 23, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkroll/2014/07/23/what-you-need-to-know-about-this-weeks-fruit-recall-due-to-listeria-2/
5“Listeria Infection Symptoms” by Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/listeria-infection/basics/symptoms/con-20031039
6“Listeria Infection Symptoms” by Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/listeria-infection/basics/symptoms/con-20031039
7“Stone Fruit from Trader Joe’s, Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart and Ralphs Recalled for Listeria” by Samantha Bonar. LA Weekly. july 23, 2014. http://www.laweekly.com/squidink/2014/07/22/stone-fruit-from-trader-joes-costco-sams-club-and-walmart-recalled-for-listeria
8“Wawona Packing Co. Takes Precautionary Step of Voluntarily Recalling Fresh, Whole Peaches, Plums, Nectarines, and Pluots Because of Possible Health Risk” FDA press release. FDA. July 19, 2014. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm405943.htm
9“Should You Worry? What You Need To Know About The Listeria Fruit Recall” by David Kroll. Forbes. July 23, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidkroll/2014/07/23/what-you-need-to-know-about-this-weeks-fruit-recall-due-to-listeria-2/
10“Stone fruit recall expands to include Whole Foods” by Samantha Tata. PIX11. July 24, 2014. http://pix11.com/2014/07/24/stone-fruit-recall-expands-to-include-whole-foods/
11“Stone Fruit from Trader Joe’s, Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart and Ralphs Recalled for Listeria” by Samantha Bonar. LA Weekly. july 23, 2014. http://www.laweekly.com/squidink/2014/07/22/stone-fruit-from-trader-joes-costco-sams-club-and-walmart-recalled-for-listeria
12“Stone Fruit from Trader Joe’s, Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart and Ralphs Recalled for Listeria” by Samantha Bonar. LA Weekly. july 23, 2014. http://www.laweekly.com/squidink/2014/07/22/stone-fruit-from-trader-joes-costco-sams-club-and-walmart-recalled-for-listeria