Often, when we think of food poisoning, we think of under-cooked or contaminated meat or meat products. However, as our readers know from our recent blog post, food poisoning is actually extremely common as the result of eating contaminated produce and vegetable-based food products. Shockingly, food poisoning is actually higher from consuming produce than from consuming meat. In summary of that post, studies have shown that food poisoning may now be more common from produce consumption because of a decrease in meat consumption, the fact that produce is more often eaten raw than cooked which does not always remove bacteria, and that produce can be cross-contaminated by meat from being produced at the same facility.
A recent listeria outbreak exemplifies the dangers of foodborne illnesses stemming from contaminated vegetable-based products. According to a report by ABC News, Amy’s Kitchen frozen entrees are in the midst of a major recall for listeria-contaminated spinach. The organic food company is undergoing a major recall of over 74,000 items because of listeria found in its spinach. Three other companies are also undergoing a recall for their spinach products too, including Rising Moon Organics, Superior Foods, and Twin City Foods. Amy’s Kitchen and these three companies all received listeria-contaminated spinach from the same organic spinach supplier: Coastal Green. The supplier discovered listeria during testing, and realized that some of its products that were already shipped out were at high risk of contamination as well.
It is important to understand how serious listeria is. According to the same article by ABC, listeria is a bacteria that lives in the digestive tracts of animals but is likely to cause the illness listeriosis when humans consume it. Like we discussed in our recent post mentioned above, this occurs when produce is contaminated by animal waste, such as by dirty wash water through tainted irrigation, animals were in the field, or through cross-contamination when meat and produce are manufactured in the same facility.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listeria is a serious public health concern in the United States. The disease is especially harmful toward older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and those with weakened immune systems. The typical symptoms of the foodborne illness are fever, muscle aches, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost everyone who is diagnosed has an invasive infection, where the bacteria spread beyond the gastrointestinal tract. When pregnant women contract the illness, the sickness can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn. Other people often suffer headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. Listeria can even present itself as septicemia and meningitis in older adults and those with weakened immune systems.
While food manufacturers have a legal duty to provide consumers with safe and contamination-free food, there are instances where they breach their legal duty and dangerous products enter the marketplace. Our attorneys urge our readers to best protect yourself. Know your rights under the law that companies must inspect food, warn of dangers, and remove dangerous products from the stream of commerce. However, knowing that it is possible that companies breach this duty, do not trust that your produce is ready to eat when you buy it; instead, take the extra step to protect yourself by thoroughly washing your produce at home before consumption.