Check your refrigerator (again): lettuce and blackberries

Image courtesy of CDC.

Individuals are urged to check their refrigerators (again) for items currently involved in national recalls: romaine lettuce and blackberries. Wisconsin officials have found E. coli O157:H7 in an unopened bag of pre-washed, chopped romaine lettuce that originated from Salinas Valley, California; the lettuce was in an ill person’s home. Evidence is not yet available to link the lettuce to recalls posted in November of this year.  The E. coli O157 bacteria was found in a bag of chopped Fresh Express brand “Leafy Green Romaine” lettuce with a use-by date of 11/14/2019 and a lot code of Z301 A05B. There are 33 Wisconsinites with confirmed cases of illness linked to the national recall of contaminated lettuce.

Officials note that while the bacteria was found in a bag of Fresh Express brand romaine, it is important to note that not all of the sick people in Wisconsin who are included in this outbreak have reported consuming Fresh Express brand salads. At this time, no single product, brand, or variety of salad has been reported by all ill individuals. Some did report eating the Fresh Express romaine. The investigation is ongoing to determine the source of contamination and whether additional products are linked to illnesses. A recall notice posted yesterday identified Fresh Express Sunflower Crisp chopped salad kit as part of a recall. Public health officials at state and federal levels are saying it is important to look at product labels for any mention of Salinas Valley, CA, and avoid purchasing such products. And to help avoid cross contamination, thoroughly clean produce drawers and refrigerator surfaces after throwing out the product.

Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated products and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about their possible exposure to the bacteria. The symptoms of E. coli infections often include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some patients may also have a fever. Specific advice to consumers can be found on the CDC outbreak website.

Image courtesy of Food Safety News.

In a separate recall notice, consumers are urged to check freezers due to an ongoing recall of fresh blackberries due to possible contamination with Hepatitis A. The implicated blackberries were sold by Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery stores and at Woodman’s Market. The berries were sold in September, but may have been frozen for later use. It can take 4-6 weeks for symptoms of illness linked to Hepatitis A to appear. Six states are reporting confirmed patients. Those states are Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A is usually transmitted person-to-person through the fecal-oral route or consumption of contaminated food or water. Most adults with Hepatitis A exhibit symptoms of fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and/or jaundice. The best way to prevent Hepatitis A infection is to get vaccinated. Ill persons should seek immediate medical care. Additional information on Hepatitis A can be found on the CDC website.

Check your refrigerators (and freezers), stay informed, and stay food-safe. Barb