The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced an ongoing multi-state listeria outbreak that sickened eight people and forced a recall of 358 different frozen fruits and vegetables.

According to the CDC, eight people infected with strains of Listeria monocytogenes were documented from the states of California, Maryland and Washington from September 2013 to March this year. It was only recently, however, that the outbreak was traced to frozen vegetables, prompting the recall.

Epidemiological and lab evidence pointed to frozen vegetable products from CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington – sold under different brand names – as the likely source of the outbreak.

“This is a complex, ongoing investigation, and updates will be provided when more information is available,” said CDC of the outbreak, which was identified in March.

The recall covers frozen fruits and vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, peppers, green beans, kale, blueberries, cherries and strawberries. See the full list of recalled products under more than 40 different brands here.

Last April, CRF Frozen Foods pulled 11 frozen vegetable products off the shelf as these may be tainted with listeria, the CDC recalled. On May 2, the company expanded the initial recall to comprise all traditional and organic frozen vegetable and fruit products processed in its Pasco facility since May 2014.

The contamination in the outbreak is prevalent across various food items, suggesting that the source could hail from a contaminated surface anywhere in the facilities or along the supply line of the vegetables and fruits.

Furthermore, March samples collected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from Pasco-based manufacturer Oregon Potato Company were detected to be closely gene-related to seven isolates from sick individuals affected by the ongoing outbreak. The company then voluntarily recalled its wholesale onion products.

The FDA urged retailers and food establishments to stop serving any of the recalled products and to dispose of these immediately. They can also check with the supplier to know the source of the products.

The agency also recommended washing and sanitizing all surfaces, display cases and refrigerators where likely contaminated products were stored, as well as washing one’s hands with warm water and soap as part of sanitation methods.

Infection with the listeria bacteria could lead to high fever, severe headache, nausea, diarrhea and related symptoms in healthy individuals. However, it could sometimes be fatal for children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Pregnant women, too, could suffer from miscarriage or stillbirth.

Photo: Miran Rijavec | Flickr

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