Massive Frozen Vegetable Recall May Not Be So Bad Because People Cook Vegetables

Image courtesy of Paul Wilkinson

Have you gone through all of the frozen vegetables and packaged food in your house to ensure that they aren’t on the list of items potentially contaminated by Listeria in an outbreak dating back to 2013? Yeah, me either, and I don’t even have a lot of frozen vegetables. That’s what public health officials are worried about: that people won’t check their freezers and could get sick years from now, with Listeria monocytogenes, a foodborne illness that is especially dangerous.

Listeria poses a unique hazard to pregnant women, since it can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, fatigue, and aches for pregnant women, and other people may experience gastrointestinal symptoms followed by aches and fever. The most dangerous complication, which is more common in people who are elderly or immunocompromised, is meningitis. Symptoms of that complication include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.

If there is any good news about millions of pounds of fruit and vegetables potentially being contaminated with Listeria, it’s that frozen vegetables are usually cooked before people eat them.

An expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Associated Press that this is one possible reason why relatively few serious illnesses have been reported relative to the amount of food out there that was affected. Another possibility is that whatever caused the contamination spread it unevenly, and very few bags ended up with enough of the pathogen to make anyone sick.

Frozen vegetable products (Listeria monocytogenes) [FDA]
Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Frozen Vegetables [CDC]