A recall has pulled thousands of cartons of fruit off shelves and potentially exposed consumers in 18 states to deadly bacteria.
But there’s a silver lining, experts say. The recall underscores the effectiveness of food safety systems in place to catch such contaminants.
Peaches, plums, and nectarines sold at stores such as Aldi, Costco, and Walmart were recently recalled by fruit distributor Jac. Vandenberg Inc.
The fruit may have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can cause fatal infections in children, the elderly, or people with weak immune systems. It can also cause miscarriages in pregnant women.
Other people may experience severe headaches, fever, nausea, or diarrhea, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The agency said no illnesses had been reported at the time of the Jan. 24 recall.
The recall includes nectarines sold in clear plastic clamshells at California Costcos and peaches, plums, and nectarines sold in plastic sacks at Aldi stores in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Both come under the brand name Rio Duero and are from Chile.
The recall also applies to peaches sold at Maine’s Hannaford stores; peaches and nectarines sold at Market Basket stores in Massachusetts and Fairway Markets in New York; peaches sold at Walmarts in Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia; and nectarines sold at Walmarts in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
It’s the 10th food recall so far this year and the fourth related to potential listeria contamination. A fifth listeria-related recall was announced Monday, taking all Oskri brand nut and seed butters off shelves.
At this time last year, there had been only two listeria-related recalls, both in dairy products, which can be affected if not properly pasteurized. There were 28 total listeria-related recalls of human food in 2018, according to the FDA data.
The increase in recalls isn’t necessarily a bad sign, says Oriana Leishman, MPH, PhD, who works on food safety products as head of the food and beverage program at disinfectants maker Ecolab.
That’s because contaminants such as listeria are increasingly being detected before they can cause a problem for consumers.
“In the bigger picture, detection of all types of bacteria is continuing to get more sensitive,” Leishman told Healthline.
That’s mainly due to technological advances and regulations, she says. It also means companies and regulators are looking in more places for potential contamination and testing larger quantities of food.
“Overall, the food supply continues to be extraordinarily safe and continues to get safer,” she said. “Companies do a good job, supported by regulators.”
Listeria always poses a potential problem.
Leishman calls it a “pretty ubiquitous but known hazard.”
It lives in soil, water, and animal feces. It can get on food equipment and into storage facilities, where it can survive cold temperatures. Heat — like that from cooking — will kill it, but that doesn’t help with foods that aren’t cooked.
“The way to get it out is to know where it is and get it cleaned,” Leishman said.
But things do occasionally go wrong.
If you think you might have eaten the potentially contaminated stone fruit, check if you have any symptoms of listeriosis, such as fever.
If you’re otherwise healthy, just note if symptoms develop.
If you have a compromised immune system, check with your doctor.
Some peaches, plums, and nectarines sold in 18 states have been recalled for potential listeria contamination.
The bacterium can cause fatal infections in young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. It’s much less harmful for the general population.
There have now been five listeria-related human food recalls in 2019, compared to two by this time last year.
But experts say that may be because we’re getting better at catching potential contamination.