frozen vegetablesBig recall, worth a glance from a frozen food company out of my home state of Washington. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a recall of 42 brands that sell frozen fruits and vegetables. It’s a BIG list of products that could be in your freezer if you shop at places like Costco, Trader Joe’s or Walmart. This is especially true if you’re pregnant, are immunocompromised or have young children. The possible contamination in these frozen foods is a bacteria called Listeria that can cause more significant illness in those groups. The recall includes over 350 products, both organic and non-organic, which are sold between these 42 brands. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notified the company that 7 people from 3 states have become ill and were hospitalized due to listeria, likely stemming from the consumption of contaminated frozen fruits and vegetables.

The FDA has a complete list of brands and products that are being recalled. Note that this recall affects all 50 states. All affected products have the best by dates or sell by dates between April 26, 2016 and April 26, 2018.

The bottom line: check your freezer for frozen fruits and veggies and then check the FDA’s list!  Throw out frozen fruits and vegetables if they are on the list. You can go back to the store where you purchased them and ask for a refund. Keeping them in your freezer is certainly not worth the risk of a Listeria infection. Children who ate contaminated foods and have normal immune systems are not at high risk of listeriosis, and no special testing is needed. Also, foods eaten more than 2 weeks ago are not worrisome, as the incubation period is 1-14 days.

What Is Listeria?

  • Listeria is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
  • Common symptoms include fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting). Most of us do okay after getting listeria and heal up without intervention but some people can have bigger risks (see below).

Who Is At High Risk:

  • Pregnant Women:
    • Pregnant women typically experience the same symptoms as others infected with Listeria.
    • Infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
    • The CDC estimates that 1 in 7 cases of Listeria occurs during pregnancy.
    • Pregnant women are 10x more likely than the general population to get Listeria infection.
  • People with weak or compromised immune systems (think cancer, diabetes, patients on chemo or steroids, those with immmunodeficiencies or those patients with HIV infection or AIDS).
  • Children under 12 weeks of age.
  • Adults 65 years and older are about 4x more likely than the general population to get Listeria infection.

Tips To Avoid Listeria

I’ve curated a list of recommendations for safe food handling from

  • Safety starts at the grocery store. Bag raw meat, poultry, or fish separately from other food items. Drive home immediately after finishing your shopping so that you can store all foods properly. Don’t let your food get warm in the car.
  • Once you’ve made it home, prepare foods safely. Wash your hands before and after handling food. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables by rinsing them well with running water. I often use a food brush and scrub the outer layers of fruits and vegetables when possible. It’s also smart to use two cutting boards: one for fresh produce and the other for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Store foods safely. Cook, refrigerate, or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and ready-to-eat foods within 2 hours. Make sure your refrigerator is set at 40°F (4°C) or colder.
  • Know that Listeria can grow in the refrigerator, so clean up any spills in your refrigerator, especially juices from hot dogs, raw meat, or poultry. I like using glass or ceramic containers to store food safely.
  • Cook foods to appropriate and safe temperatures. You can use a meat thermometer to help determine whether foods are cooked to a safe temperature. You can find them at a variety of retailers for under $20.
  • Reheat leftovers to at least 165°F.
  • Serve foods safely. Keep cooked hot foods hot (140+°F) and cold foods cold (40°F).
  • When in doubt, throw it out.

Tips For Pregnant Moms To Avoid Listeria:

  • Right now read the FDA list and make sure those are OUT of your freezer.
  • Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
  • Do not eat soft cheeses unless the label states they are made from pasteurized milk. Avoid cheeses like: feta, brie, blue-veined cheeses, and Mexican-style cheeses. I know, we all love cheese and it seems so unfair during pregnancy, but it will help keep you and baby safe.
  • Do not eat refrigerated pâté or meat spreads. But you can eat these foods if they are canned.
  • Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood (like salmon, trout, cod, tuna, etc.) unless it is an ingredient in a cooked dish such as a casserole.
  • Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or eat foods that contain unpasteurized milk.
  • Avoid eating salads made in a store, such as ham, chicken, egg, tuna, or seafood salads.

pregnancy food safety

*This post was updated at 2:51 PM PST on 5/6/2106