Fresh Produce Recalls: What Consumers Should Do
The recent recall of fresh peaches, nectarines, plums and pluots (a plum/apricot hybrid) makes this a good time to think about what consumers should do if they have, or think they may have, any of the recalled products. It’s important to know whether you have any of them because they were potentially contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, or LM, which can cause serious illness, particularly in pregnant women, young children, older persons, and anyone whose immune system has been weakened by disease or certain medications. See below for more information about Listeria.
Do You Have the Recalled Product?
To find out whether you have a recalled produce product, check FDA Recalls, clicking on the brand name link will take you to a release that describes what products were recalled and often which retailers sold them. At the bottom of the release there will usually be a link to pictures of the recalled product labels. Of course, if you have produce of the sort that has been recalled that you bought in bulk and not in labeled packages, it’s important to check with your retailer.
If you have recalled fresh produce do not take chances. Do not eat it... Either take it back to the store where you bought it or throw it away. Then:
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water after touching it.
- Wash any surface that it touched -- bowls, plates, countertops, cutting boards refrigerator shelves and bins – with soap and warm water.
Handling Produce Safely
While fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, harmful bacteria that may be in the soil or water where produce grows may come in contact with fruits and vegetables and contaminate them. Fresh produce may also become contaminated after it is harvested, such as during preparation or storage. Produce that has not been recalled still should be handled as safely as possible. So, even produce that has not been recalled should be handled with proper care:
- Start with clean hands -- wash them for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water.
- Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking. This includes produce grown conventionally or organically at home, or purchased from a grocery store or farmer's market. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended.
- Even if you plan to peel the produce before eating, it is still important to wash it first so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
- Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
- Dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
- If the package indicates that the contents are pre-washed and ready-to-eat, you can use the produce without further washing.
- If you do chose to wash a product marked “pre-washed” or “ready-to-eat,” be sure to use safe handling practices to avoid any cross contamination.
Listeria infection, called Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The risk of invasive listeriosis after exposure to Listeria monocytogenes is very low
The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. View full size graphic
People who develop symptoms of listeriosis should seek medical care and tell the physician or health care provider about eating the contaminated food. The incubation period for Listeria infection is typically a few days to one month, but can be up to 70 days for pregnant women.
- Persons with weakened immune systems and persons over 65 years old: Symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.
- Pregnant women: Pregnant women typically experience only a mild, flu-like illness. However, infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
- Other persons: Healthy people aged less than 65 years old occasionally develop invasive listeriosis. In addition, persons exposed to a very large dose of Listeria bacteria can develop a non-invasive illness (meaning that the bacteria do not spread into their blood stream or other sites) with diarrhea and fever.
- Symptoms can be found on CDC’s website, www.cdc.gov/listeria.
If you feel you have eaten food contaminated with Listeria:
- A person who ate a product recalled because of Listeria contamination should consult a health care provider if he or she develops symptoms of listeriosis after eating the recalled product.