Food Recall Resource

California Avocados Recalled Over Listeria Contamination Concerns

Henry Avocado Corporation issued a voluntary recall of their California-grown whole avocados after a routine inspection indicated the fruit may pose a listeria contamination risk to consumers.  At the moment, the company has not reported any illness related to the fruit involved in the recall.

In a statement, Henry Avocado said they issued this recall out of “an abundance of caution.”

 A Huge Dip in America’s Avocado Supply

This avocado recall is best for consumer safety because listeria contamination can be quite serious.  However, it will mean a noticeable reduction in avocados available for purchase throughout the U.S.  Henry Avocado did not release any information about how many crates or individual avocados are included in this recall, but from November 2017 to October 2018, California harvested 338 million pounds of avocados.

By contrast, unusually high temperatures during the recent growing season mean California growers are expecting a harvest of only 175 million pounds this year, about half of the usual amount.

How to Identify the Recalled Avocados

Henry Avocado sold the fruit involved in this recall in bulk to retail stores in six states, including:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Wisconsin

Since a routine inspection of the facility found signs of listeria contamination in the packing facility on an environmental sample, such as a work surface, all the produce packed there is subject to the recall.  Both organic and conventionally grown avocados could be a source of listeria contamination.  Henry Avocado began packing avocados in this facility in January 2019.

Henry Avocado has contacted all retail customers who received shipments of the California avocados, but it is likely the contaminated fruit is already in consumer homes.  Retailers can most easily identify the avocados by their barcode, but that is no help to shoppers.

The avocados included in the recall are marked as follows:

  • Conventionally grown avocados have a “Bravocado” brand name sticker
  • Organic avocados are merely labeled “California” and “organic” on the sticker

The produce with possible listeria contamination should no longer be sold in stores, but it may be in your home.  Do not consume these avocados.  Discard them as soon as possible and sanitize any surface they touched.  Most retailers are accepting returns and issuing full refunds for the avocados.

Other Sources of Avocados

Henry Avocado said it is focused on cleaning and sanitizing the packing plant that tested positive for listeria contamination, even using a third party to do so, in order to ensure they will be able to participate in the safe distribution of the upcoming California avocado harvest.

Avocados imported from Mexico, even those distributed by Henry Avocados, were not affected by these Listeria contamination concerns and should be available for purchase.

Listeria Contamination is a Serious Public Health Hazard

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that lives naturally in soil and water.  Produce and facility surfaces can come into contact with listeria living in soil or manure fertilizers.  Agricultural practices carry a natural risk of listeria contamination because of the constant contact with soil, water, and manure.

listeria contamination

Listeria infections are serious and sometimes fatal.  Healthy adults in most cases can expect short-term symptoms like:

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Stiffness
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea

Listeria infection is particularly dangerous to:

  • Children
  • Elderly adults
  • Immune-compromised adults
  • Pregnant women

These vulnerable groups can experience the symptoms above to a life-threatening degree.  Pregnant women in particular should avoid any threat of listeria contamination because it can cause miscarriage or stillbirth.

Can You Wash Listeria off Produce?

Thoroughly washing produce before preparation and consumption is one of the most effective ways to combat listeria contamination.  Follow these tips to reduce the risk of listeria exposure:

  • Rinse produce thoroughly under running water.
  • Use a vegetable brush to scrub firm produce like avocados or carrots.
  • Pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Rinse produce prior to cutting or peeling to avoid contaminants spreading on the knife.
  • Wash hands after handling produce.

A Breeding Ground for Listeria in Your Own Kitchen?

Contaminated food can bring listeria into your home, and your refrigerator can become the source of a massive risk of infection.  Unlike most other bacteria and contaminants, refrigeration does not slow the growth of listeria.  It can thrive and multiply in your refrigerator and contaminate all your other cold food.

Reduce your family’s risk of home-grown listeria infection by cleaning, then chilling, food properly.

  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.  Listeria can grow at refrigerated temperatures but it grows slowly below 40 degrees, making its spread easier to contain than when it multiplies rapidly.
  • Wrap or cover foods with plastic wrap prior to putting them in the refrigerator to contain any listeria present.
  • Use an appliance thermometer to monitor the temperature in your refrigerator.
  • Use pre-cooked or ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible.
  • Use leftovers within three days of refrigeration.

Regularly cleaning the refrigerator also reduces the risk of listeria contamination that can make you sick.  Spills in the refrigerator can easily contaminate the other food stored there.

  • Clean up spills in the refrigerator right away- especially spills from lunch meat packaging, raw meat, raw poultry, or hot dogs.
  • Clean the inside walls and other surfaces with warm water and soap, then rinse.
  • Sanitize your refrigerator monthly with a mild bleach solution.

Avoid Certain Foods Known for Listeria Contamination

Always keep informed of current recalls and risks of listeria contamination in the news.  There are certain foods known to be a greater risk of listeria than others, such as:

  • Deli meats
  • Hot dogs
  • Smoked seafood
  • Stored-prepared deli salads
  • Unpasteurized and soft cheeses
  • Most ready-to-eat foods

Minimize the threat from ready-to-eat foods by heating them until they are steaming hot before consumption.  This is an especially important practice for the groups most at-risk of severe consequences from listeria contamination.

Have you Been Sick from Listeria Contamination?

Listeria is an age-old risk well known to agricultural producers.  The producers themselves, the U.S.  Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) routinely monitor food sources for the presence of listeria contamination.  Despite monitoring and management practices, food producers are still liable when their food causes harm by spreading listeria or other contaminants.

With an annual death toll of more than 200 Americans each year, it is clear that agricultural producers can do more to prevent the spread of bacteria.  When their measures fail and their products make people sick, the victims have a right to hold them financially accountable.

If you or a loved one has been sick with listeriosis or has lost an unborn child due to listeria contamination, contact our attorneys to schedule a free consultation of your claim.  At Bad Food Recall, protecting and informing consumers is what we do best.

 

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