At last, you have a legitimate excuse not to eat your veggies. On Thursday, California-based company Mann Packing recalled minimally processed vegetables for possible listeria contamination. No illnesses have been reported so far, but random sampling by the Canadian Food Agency turned up a single positive test on one of the company's products. As a result, Mann Packing is recalling packaged vegetables, salads, and other vegetable products sold across the United States and Canada. They will have "best if used by" dates between Oct. 11 and Oct. 20 on the front of the packaging; a full list of UPC codes and product names can be found on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website.
The bacteria in question is Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause an infection known as listeriosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a listeria infection can cause "headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches" among people who are not pregnant. However, an infection in healthy people is rarely serious; listeriosis is most likely to affect people with weakened immune systems, those aged 65 and older, and pregnant women. Among the latter, an infection tends to cause mild symptoms, but it can cause miscarriage or a life-threatening illness in the newborn. About 1,600 people are infected each year, usually after eating contaminated food, and around 200 die. Symptoms can appear between a few days and a few weeks of ingesting the bacteria.
"As an owner of this company and a mom, providing safe and healthy foods to our consumers and their families is always our top priority,” said Mann Packing's director of marketing, Gina Nucci, in a statement. “This voluntary recall is a reflection of our commitment to ensuring the safety of our consumers."
The Mann Packing recall includes products sold by Archer Farms, HEB, Little Salad Bar, Signature Farms, and Sysco Natural. If you bought any recalled products, you can return them for a full refund. Questions can be directed to the company's consumer line at 888-470-2681 or its website.
According to the CDC, most cases of listeria aren't part of recognized outbreaks, but most years, a few outbreaks usually occur. This spring, two people died and numerous others were hospitalized in a multi-state outbreak that was eventually traced back to soft raw milk cheese from the New York-based Vulto Creamery. In 2016, a separate multi-state outbreak lasting three years was finally traced to a frozen food supplier, resulting in a massive recall of their vegetables across the nation. Because nothing is sacred, the bacteria can even affect ice cream; in 2015, Blue Bell Creameries recalled certain ice cream products after a possible listeria contamination.
Interestingly enough, back in the '90s, listeria was usually found in deli meats and hot dogs. These days, however, outbreaks of the bacteria are generally linked to dairy, fruit, and vegetable products. According to the CDC, soft cheeses like queso fresco, raw sprouts, melons, and unpasteurized milk are common culprits.
The CDC recommends making sure to eat products made from pasteurized milk, and it reminds consumers to wash their hands often, especially when handling meat. Jaclyn London, the nutrition director for the Good Housekeeping Institute, told Good Housekeeping that readers should remember to wash their produce before cooking or eating. In case you're wondering, it's an easy enough process: The FDA suggests washing fruits and vegetables under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking them — no soap required.
Given how many bacteria, not just listeria, hang out on food every day, the Mann Packing listeria recall is a reminder to practice good kitchen hygiene. For the FDA's recommendations on safe food handling, head over to its website.