Food recall Amid a massive frozen foods recall involving millions of packages of fruits and vegetables that were shipped to all 50 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico, authorities who want to stem the listeria-linked illnesses and deaths worry it’ll be difficult to get consumers to dig through their freezers and check for products they may have bought as far back as 2014.
It’s one of the largest food recalls in recent memory, with well over 400 products from CRF Frozen Foods in Pasco, Washington, sold under more than 40 different brand names at major retailers like Costco, Target, Trader Joe’s and Safeway. So far, eight people have been sickened by listeria that’s genetically similar to that found in CRF vegetables, and two have died, though listeria was not the primary cause of death.
“Unquestionably, this is a lot of product. … It reflects the severity of listeria as an illness, the long duration of illnesses and the outbreak and the long shelf life of the products,” said Matthew Wise, who leads the outbreak response team at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The initial recall started April 22, covering 11 frozen vegetable products. On May 2, CRF expanded it to include all of its frozen organic and traditional fruit and vegetable products manufactured or processed at its Washington plant since May 1, 2014. Thanks to recently developed whole-genome sequencing of food-contaminating bacteria, the Food and Drug Administration and CDC found that the listeria bacteria found in the blood of a person sickened in 2013 is genetically similar to the listeria tied to the recall.
“The idea is that it’s possible that it could be linked to this plant as far back as that because of the match. As a result the company, working with the FDA, decided to do the recall that far back,” CRF spokesman Gene Grabowski said.
The CRF plant closed two weeks ago and Grabowski said the company is still trying to pinpoint the source of the contamination.