Food contamination may affect your attempts at healthy snacking. Two companies, Pita Pal Foods and Growers Express, have both issued recalls for their products. If you love hummus and veggies, you should be cautious about food safety and possible food contamination.
The Hummus Recall
Light, tasty, and healthy – hummus really is the perfect snack. Unfortunately, a major manufacturer and distributor recently voluntarily recalled almost 90 of their products over concerns the dips may be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes. According to the recall notice published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the finished products available for purchase did not test positive for listeria. However, FDA investigators did find evidence of food contamination at the manufacturing facility.
The recall of Pita Pal hummus and other dips applies to their products produced between May 25, 2019 and June 25, 2019. The recall notice states that no illnesses have been reported to date, but that the company issued a sweeping recall voluntarily to prevent any consumers from becoming ill due to their products.
The Veggie Recall
Raw vegetables are a magnet for listeria bacteria. Fresh produce is grown in the soil, and of course, agriculture is impossible without water. Soil and water are the two main sources of food contamination that spread listeria. Many producers and distributors who sell raw veggie products will opt to recall any vegetables that show signs of food contamination. This is because of the risk of listeriosis, the illness associated with listeria.
Growers Express issued a voluntary recall on July 1, 2019 for some of their raw vegetable products. The list of possibly contaminated vegetables is extensive and includes cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash items that were sold at both Trader Joe’s and Shaw’s.
Consumers should be safe to eat more recently purchased vegetable products from Growers Express because the best-by dates for the contaminated products have already passed. If you buy produce in season with the intention to freeze it for winter use, however, it is possible that you have contaminated food in your freezer.
Do not take chances with listeria contamination. If you purchased vegetables from Growers Express at Trader Joe’s or Shaw’s this summer, discard anything in your freezer and sanitize the appliance. Listeria is a notoriously hardy bacteria that can even survive temperatures in freezers. Only heat and sanitizing solutions can reliably kill it. If you do intend to keep your Growers Express vegetables stored in the freezer, make sure to thoroughly cook them or at least heat them until steaming hot before consuming them.
Preventing Illness from Food Contamination in the Summer
Cases of listeria-associated foodborne illness generally spike in the summertime. Warm and humid conditions outside allow the bacteria to reproduce with astonishing rapidity. Some of Americans’ favorite summertime foods are products most at risk from food contamination due to listeria.
Outbreaks of listeria are most common in deli meat and hot dog products. Today, most food contamination associated with listeria is due to contamination of fresh produce and dairy products. Recent outbreaks have been caused by leafy greens, deli items, and ice cream.
Most healthy adults will experience the effects of listeriosis mildly. Gastrointestinal distress and low fever are common, but most people in a robust state of health recover with no medical intervention. For certain vulnerable groups of people, however, listeriosis is much more serious. Avoiding foods contaminated with listeria is especially important for:
- Pregnant women
- Adults over the age of 65
- Adults with compromised immune systems
- Children under the age of five
Foods Most Likely to Be Contaminated
Many foods that are ready for harvest during the summer months are high risk for listeria contamination.
Sprouts grow best in warm and humid conditions. Bacteria also grow best in this environment. Sprouts are high risk not only for listeria but also for Salmonella and E. coli contamination as well. For vulnerable groups of people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:
- Avoiding raw or lightly cooked sprouts of any kind. Sprouts available for purchase may include alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts.
- If you do eat sprouts, cook them thoroughly.
- If you eat in restaurants, ask that raw sprouts be left off your plate.
- Before you buy any ready-made foods, check to make sure that there are no raw sprouts on the sandwich or salad.
- Do not try to rinse sprouts. Rinsing sprouts will not remove bacteria.
- Avoid even home-grown sprouts. Even soil and water in your own garden may be contaminated with listeria. For vulnerable populations, the risk is not worth the consequences.
For the rest of the population, the CDC does not have any special recommendations with regard to sprouts. Consumers should be aware, however, of the higher risk of food contamination when they choose to eat raw sprouts.
Melons are a favorite summertime food that are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of listeriosis. The CDC food safety recommendations regarding melons extend to everyone, not just the most vulnerable groups and include:
- Eat a melon as soon as you bring it home from the store, or refrigerate it.
- Store cut melon refrigerated at 41° F or colder.
- Keep cut melon for no longer than seven days.
- Discard any cut melons that have been at room temperature for more than four hours.
Hot Dogs and Lunch Meats
Hot dogs and lunch meats pose a serious food safety threat. Across the board, the CDC recommends:
- Prevent the liquid from hot dog and lunch meat packages from touching other food, utensils, and food preparation surfaces.
- Wash your hands with hot water and soap immediately after touching hot dogs, lunch meats, and deli meats.
- To store these foods in the refrigerator safely, discard open hot dog packages after one week in the refrigerator. Do not keep unopened hot dog packages for longer than two weeks, even if they have been refrigerated. For deli meats, keep factory sealed packages for no longer than two weeks, and discard any open packages of meat after no longer than five days.
For vulnerable populations, the CDC has somewhat stricter recommendations to prevent illness from food contamination:
- Avoid consuming hot dogs, lunch meats, cold cuts, deli meats, cured or fermented sausages, and any preparation from the deli section. That is, unless you heat it to an internal temperature of 165°F or heat it until steaming hot immediately prior to serving.
- Do not eat pâté or meat spreads from the refrigerated section of a store. Shelf-stable alternatives to these products are a safer choice, but be sure to refrigerate these foods after you open them. Discard them within three days of opening.
What to Do About Food Contamination
Most of the time, there is no way to determine if the foods you purchase are really safe. Bacteria and viruses can easily hide in the products we all love. To keep your family safe and avoid possible food contamination, you should certainly always follow food safety guidelines.
Also, keep up with current food safety alerts and recalls. At Bad Food Recall, we aim to keep you informed on the latest issues in food safety, including alerts and recalls. If you have questions about any of the recalls or food safety topics we discuss, contact us to learn more. Schedule a consultation with a food safety attorney to learn more about foodborne illness. Call 1-877-534-5750 or contact us online to get started.