If you chose this weekend to cleanse your body of junk food and alcohol by eating a raw diet, we have three words for you: very bad timing. Last Thursday, Mann Packing, a big name in the produce industry, recalled 131 of its fresh vegetable products across the US and Canada.
"We issued this recall last week out of an abundance of caution because the health and safety of our consumers is our highest priority," Gina Nucci, director of corporate marketing for Mann Packing, told Tonic. Mandatory recalls are rare—a company will usually issue a voluntary recall after discovering a problem on its own or after the FDA raises a concern about one of its products, explains Peter Cassell, an FDA press officer. In this case, Mann Packing issued a voluntary recall after they found out a random test by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency detected Listeria monocytogenes on one of its products. Mann Packing owns the Mann's product line, which offers items like Nourish Bowls, vegetable trays, and veggie blends.
Like most bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes tends to wreak the most havoc on people with compromised immune systems, like pregnant women, babies, the elderly, and those with HIV and other diseases that weaken the body's ability to fight infection. It's like the flu's evil cousin: Listeriosis can cause fever, diarrhea, fatigue, and muscle aches, which usually start a week to a month after eating contaminated food, says Beau Bruce, the medical officer of CDC's Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch. The damage normally stops there, but if the infection spreads beyond the gut, it can lead to headaches, loss of balance, and confusion, he adds.
For pregnant women, the infection can pass on to the fetus or newborn, and even cause miscarriage or stillbirth. "As an owner of this company and a mom, providing safe and healthy foods to our consumers and their families is always a top priority," Nucci said last week in a statement. "This voluntary recall is a reflection of our commitment to ensuring the safety of our consumers."
About 260 people die every year from listeriosis. Raw sprouts—like alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts—are more prone to the bacteria than others, Bruce says. "Thorough cooking kills the harmful bacteria and reduces your risk of getting sick," he adds, but that doesn't make potentially contaminated products 100 percent safe. "When in doubt, throw it out."
The recalled products were pulled from several grocers across the US and Canada, including Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Market, Meijer, Walmart, and Albertson's. Meijer announced its own recall in response, pulling an additional 39 items from its shelves. All of the items have now expired—they had "use by" dates between October 11 and October 20. "Consumers who may still have this product in their refrigerators should not consume it," Nucci says. "They should discard it and return to the store for a full refund."
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