FDA Investigates Listeria Outbreak Linked to Frozen Vegetables

The FDA, CDC and state and local officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis identified in March 2016.

The CDC reports that eight people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from three states (California, Maryland and Washington) from September 2013 – March 2016. Ill people ranged in age from 56 to 86, with a median age of 76. Epidemiology and laboratory evidence available at this time indicates that frozen vegetables produced by CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington, and sold under various brand names are one likely source of illnesses in this outbreak. As discussed further below, CRF Frozen Foods has initiated a recall of certain products.

As part of a routine product sampling program the Ohio Department of Agriculture collected packages of frozen vegetable products from a retail location and isolated Listeria monocytogenes from True Goodness by Meijer brand frozen organic white sweet cut corn and frozen organic petite green peas. Both products were produced by CRF Frozen Foods.

Whole genome sequencing showed that the Listeria monocytogenes isolate from the frozen corn was closely related genetically to seven bacterial isolates from ill people, and the Listeria monocytogenes isolate from the frozen peas was closely related genetically to one isolate from an ill person. This close genetic relationship provides additional evidence that the people in this outbreak became ill from eating frozen vegetables produced by CRF Frozen Foods.

Based on the positive findings by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, on April 22, 2016, CRF recalled 11 frozen vegetable products because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. On May 2, 2016, following a conversation between FDA, CDC and the firm, CRF Frozen Foods expanded its recall to include all of its frozen organic and traditional fruit and vegetable products manufactured or processed in CRF Frozen Foods’ Pasco facility since May 1, 2014. Approximately 358 consumer products sold under 42 separate brands were recalled.

Additionally, March 2016 environmental samples collected by FDA from Oregon Potato Company, located in Pasco, WA, were found to be closely related genetically to seven of the isolates of ill people associated with this outbreak. Based on this information, Oregon Potato Company voluntarily recalled wholesale onion products, which led to subsequent downstream customer recalls, one disclaimer icon of which publicly disclosed Oregon Potato Company as its product source. FDA is working to identify other parts of the relevant supply chain that may have product relating to this outbreak.

(Source: FDA website)

FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Poona Linked to Cucumbers

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration), CDC (Center for Disease Prevention and Control), and state and local officials are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Poona linked to “slicer” cucumbers, supplied by Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce and grown in Baja, Mexico. This type of cucumber can also be called “American” cucumbers.

According to the CDC, as of September 3, 2015, 285 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Poona have been reported from 27 states. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: Alaska (8), Arizona (60), Arkansas (6), California (51), Colorado (14), Idaho (8), Illinois (5), Kansas (1), Louisiana (3), Minnesota (12), Missouri (7), Montana (11), Nebraska (2), Nevada (7), New Mexico (15), New York (4), North Dakota (1), Ohio (2), Oklahoma (5), Oregon (3), South Carolina (6), Texas (9), Utah (30), Virginia (1), Washington (9), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (3). Illnesses started on dates ranging from July 3, 2015 to August 26, 2015.  One death has been reported from California, and 53 people have reported being hospitalized.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about foods eaten and other exposures in the week before their illness began. Fifty-eight (73%) of 80 people interviewed reported eating cucumbers. This proportion was significantly higher than results from a survey of healthy people in which 55% reported eating cucumbers in the month of July in the week before they were interviewed.

Federal and state authorities identified clusters of people made ill in separate geographic areas and worked to trace the distribution of the food they ate back to a common supplier. The results of the traceback investigation indicate that Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce, of San Diego, Calif., was a common supplier of cucumbers that were eaten by the people in these illness clusters.

Several state health and agriculture departments are collecting leftover cucumbers from restaurants and grocery stores where ill people reported eating or shopping to test for the presence of Salmonella. The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency isolated Salmonella from cucumbers collected during a visit to the Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce facility. Results of additional product testing will be reported once available.

On September 3, 2015, FDA and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) briefed the management of Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce on the status of the investigation thus far. Andrew and Williamson has issued a recall of all cucumbers sold under its Limited Edition® label during the period from August 1, 2015 through September 3, 2015.

Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce reports that the Limited Edition cucumbers were distributed in the states of Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah and reached customers through retail, food service companies, wholesalers, and brokers. Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce lists many companies they supply to on their website.

The company further reports that these cucumbers are shipped in a black, green, yellow, and craft colored carton which reads “Limited Edition Pole Grown Cucumbers.” This variety is often referred to as a “Slicer” or “American” cucumber. It has a dark green color. It typically has a length of 7 to 10 inches and a diameter of 1.75 to 2.5 inches. In retail it is typically is sold in a bulk display without any individual packaging or plastic wrapping. In food service it is typically served as part of a salad.

The investigation is ongoing, and FDA will continue to provide updates and advice when new information is available.  For more info read here.

(Source: FDA Website)