Is Listeria Lurking in Your Home?
Marketside brand bagged vegetables sold at Wal-Mart have been recalled amid concerns of listeria contamination. Consumers living in the following states are known to be affected:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Though the distributor of the bagged vegetables issued a statement claiming no illnesses have yet occurred due to these products, they have admitted a tabletop surface in their facility did test positive for the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Their statement goes on to say that no food products at their facilities have tested positive for the contamination, but that they have issued the recall in an attempt to protect consumers from exposure.
The distributor, Southern Specialties, urges the public to destroy or return the following products due to fears of possible contamination:
- Marketside brand 32 oz bagged green beans, lot no. 83931-123 or 83939-124
- Marketside brand 12 oz bagged green beans, lot no. 83928-628 or 83932-123
- Marketside brand 16 oz bagged butternut squash, lot no. 83940-319 or 83940-139
Since Wal-Mart is one of the most popular grocery stores in the country, this contamination could have consequences that reach far beyond the states listed above.
If you have recently served these Marketside veggies to your family, be especially alert for signs of illness that could be caused by listeria contamination. If you or a loved one falls ill, seek medical attention immediately, and then call a food safety attorney.
What is Listeria Contamination?
Listeria is a bacterium found in soil, water, dust, or animal stool, which are all substances that can easily come into contact with food while it is grown, harvested, processed, or otherwise prepared for human consumption. If contaminated food is consumed, it can have consequences ranging in severity from mild illness to death, depending on the health of the person affected.
Listeria can grow and thrive in cold temperatures. It can even survive freezing temperatures, meaning that it can survive in a refrigerator. Contaminated food has no foul smell or visual clues.
Symptoms caused by eating contaminated food may appear a few days after consumption, or could even take a few months to present. Hard to detect, and sometimes hard to diagnose, the best way to avoid listeria contamination is to avoid foods suspected of carrying the bacterium.
Which Foods can Carry Listeria?
Basically any improperly handled food could carry listeria. Like these Marketplace veggies, sanitation in production facilities can break down and put the public at risk. That’s why agencies like the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) impose regulations and routine inspections in food production and distribution plants. The contamination of the veggies sold at Wal-Mart was identified during a routine inspection.
There are, however, certain foods known to carry listeria more often than others. Those foods are:
- Deli meats
- Raw vegetables and fruits, specifically melons
- Soft or unpasteurized cheese
What are the Symptoms of Listeria Contamination?
Unpleasant though it may be, listeria contamination is not usually dangerous to a healthy person. Sadly, it poses a very real and terrible risk to pregnant women, babies, the elderly, and those with weak immune systems. Early signs of contamination may include:
- Achy Muscles
More serious infection of listeria can progress to listeriosis, which is the primary concern for children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems, including pregnant women. For these individuals, listeriosis can be fatal. The symptoms associated with listeriosis include:
- Loss of balance
- Stiff Neck
An additional concern for pregnant women specifically is that listeria infection can harm their unborn baby, ultimately resulting in pregnancy loss or even stillbirth. Concern over listeriosis is one of the reasons why health professionals and nutritionists generally warn pregnant women to avoid certain types of food like deli meat, soft cheese, and unwashed fruits and vegetables.
How can Listeria be Prevented?
First, avoid foods that are included in safety warnings or a recall. The FDA maintains a list of Safety Alerts for food-borne illnesses.
Once food is already in your home, there are preventative sanitary measures to help keep you and your family safe.
- Use hot soapy water on utensils, cutting boards, and kitchen surfaces as soon as practical after you finish cooking.
- Invest in a vegetable brush for scrubbing veggies under running water.
- Be familiar with safe cooking temperatures for meat and eggs.
- Don’t let raw eggs, meat, or poultry touch other food.
- Avoid pre-cut melon. For whole melons, wash your hands after handling a whole melon, and discard any cut pieces after 4 hours.
- It is best to eat smoked meats, deli meats, and hot dogs within 5 days of opening their packaging.
How does Listeria Contaminate Food Available for Purchase?
Listeria thrives in substances necessary to food production like water and soil. It is not detectable by human senses alone. The tiny bacteria hitch a ride on a speck of dust or drop of water, and if that contaminated produce makes it out of the distribution facility and onto store shelves, consumers are at risk.
Unlike most food-borne illnesses, listeria will still grow in a refrigerated environment. It can affect frozen vegetables that make it into your home because freezing will not kill Listeria monocytogenes.
This is why state and federal agencies monitor food production so closely. Listeria is hard to catch. The best prevention is stringent sanitation and vigilant monitoring. Unfortunately, these measures are not foolproof. According to the CDC, about 1600 people every year will contract listeria infection.
If I Contract Listeria, What are My Rights?
Your tax dollars provide the funding for the agencies that monitor and regulate food production and distribution in America. You and your family have every right to expect that the food you purchase is safe. No mother should wonder whether the veggies she serves for dinner could be fatally dangerous to her toddler.
When the food you buy does pose a danger, you have the right to hold responsible those who are accountable for the harm it caused. Food that is regulated by state and federal agencies should not be contaminated with listeria.
If a member of your family is sick because of the recalled Marketside veggies from Wal-Mart, you have options. If any food you purchased made you sick to the point of requiring medical attention, you should speak to our food safety attorneys about your experience with listeria contamination.
Many food recalls only occur when a consumer has already contracted listeria infection. By the time recalls are news, victims of listeria contamination have already paid the price in suffering and illness for the unsanitary conditions that permit listeria to spread. Many times, there is no medical record of suffering tied to the food-borne illness.
Don’t let that be your story. Know the signs of listeria infection and get the help you need if you have consumed contaminated food. Americans should not get sick from eating foods that are produced to bring good health and satisfying meals.
Get Help with Questions or Concerns about Listeria Contamination
If you have questions or concerns about food contamination, or have purchased a contaminated Marketside product, contact our office today to speak with a food safety attorney about your case. Contact us online or call our office at 1-877-534-5750. You may be entitled to compensation for your illness, suffering, and related expenses.