Listeria and 5 Other Bacterial Food Poisonings to Know Before a Recall

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

A voluntary food recall issued by Wawona Packing Company is affecting some of the nation’s largest grocery retailers. The California-based company issued the recall because peaches, nectarines, plums, and pluots have potentially been contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The bacteria causes listeria, a form of food poisoning. Reuters reports that for the cartons of the previously mentioned fruits bearing the brand names of Wawona, Sweet 2 Eat, or Harvest Sweet are possibly contaminated, and have been recalled. Retailers selling these brands include Walmart, Costco, Kroger, and Trader Joe’s. A full list of products has been posted online here.

WebMD explains that listeriosis is primarily a concern for pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. While healthy children and adults can also become infected, is it less of a threat. Common symptoms include fever, muscles aches, and nausea or diarrhea. A greater risk forms if the infection spreads to the nervous system. When this occurs, the symptoms an infected person can experience widens to headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions. Infections can be fatal. So far, no illnesses have been reported as the result of consuming fruit from Wawona Packing Company.

Like other food poisoning causing bacteria, listeria is not only a threat when there is a food recall. Fruits and vegetables can become contaminated with L. monocytogenes through the soil and fertilizer, and processed foods can become contaminated during processing. Additionally, animals can pick it up, contaminating meat and dairy products.

When it comes to food poisoning because of bacteria and viruses, FoodSafety.gov says listeria is annually among the leading causes of illnesses and hospitalizations. A total of six potential sources were listed, including: Salmonella, Norovirus (Norwalk Virus), Campylobacter, E. coli, and Clostridium perfringens. The symptoms for all six are incredibly similar, which makes familiarizing yourself with the different bacteria, viruses, and causes important so you know the potential source and severity of the food poisoning.

Salmonella

Aside from food, coming into contact with animals and their environments is a common way humans can contract salmonella. Reptiles, birds, frogs, and pet foods all pose a threat. In terms of what you eat, salmonella can be found in almost every food, from unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, to contaminated raw fruits and vegetables, meats, nuts, and eggs. Most people improve without treatment, but it can be a danger for the elderly and very young. Symptoms of salmonella are fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Norovirus

The most common cause of stomach infection are noroviruses. Shellfish, produce, and ready-to-eat foods are all potential sources, but so is food that an infected person has touched. Norovirus can be spread from person to person, and causes diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Symptoms typically last for 1 to 3 days.

Campylobacter

Campylobacter is unlikely to cause any recalls, because instances tend to be isolated. The result of consuming uncooked poultry, unpasteurized milk, or drinking water that has been contaminated; the illness lasts between 2 and 10 days. It causes diarrhea, cramps, fever, and vomiting.

E. coli

Like Listeria, E. coli can be deadly. Most varieties of the bacteria are harmless, but E. coli O157:H7 can lead to kidney failure and death. More common symptoms of E. coli are severe diarrhea that is often bloody, severe abdominal pain, and vomiting. Contaminated food is the main offender, but not properly washing hands after coming into contact with animals — particularly sheep, goats, and cows — can also result in infection.

Clostridium perfringens

It is estimated that 1 million illnesses each year are caused by clostridium perfringens. Cooking can kill the bacteria, but not entirely. Spores can regrow when food is improperly stored, creating new cells. At room temperature, the bacteria thrives, meaning c. perfringens is especially a problem for catered food, or foods that are prepared and kept warm before serving. Beef, poultry, and gravies are among the top sources. Fever and vomiting are not associated with c. perfringens, but abdominal crams and diarrhea are.

Taking proper precautions can go a long way in the prevention of food poisoning by any of these viruses and bacterium. MedLine Plus says to always carefully wash your hands before and after cooking, and after you have handled raw meat. Properly clean any dish or utensil that comes in contact with raw meat, and cook you meat at least to its minimum cooking temperature, a chart for this information can be found here. Additionally, adopting safe food storage practices, avoiding high risk foods — like undercooked meat — and thoroughly washing produce will help minimize the risk food poisoning.

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