Amy's Kitchen Recalls Vegetable Lasagna and Many Other Products Due To Possible Listeria Contamination: What is the Danger?

Posted by Eric Troy on 03 Apr 2015 18:16

Recently, on March 22, Amy's Kitchen, Inc. which markets a wide range of "natural and organic" foods such as frozen entrees, soups, and desserts issued a voluntary recall of around 73,897 cases of frozen products. The company decided to recall the products because one of their suppliers of organic spinach issued a recall due to the possibility of contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. If you've bought any of these products (link to list below), should you be concerned? What is listeria?

The important thing to know about this recall is that there have been no actual illnesses reported. It is a preemptive measure. The recall of the spinach has also affected other companies, such as La Terra Fina, who recalled its Organic Thick & Creamy Spinach Dip & Spread, Chunky Spinach Artichoke & Parmesan Dip & Spread, and Spinach Artichoke & Parmesan Dip made with Greek Yogurt.

Below are links to these recalls, where you can get a full list of the Amy's Kitchen products affected, as well as the other recalls.

Amy's Kitchen Recall
La Terra Recall March 20.
La Terra Recall March 24
La Terra Recall March 31

What is Listeria?

Listeria monocytogenes is a dangerous pathogenic bacteria which can contaminate food and cause an illness called listeriosis. Among the types of foods commonly affected are raw meat, seafood, raw milk, and soft cheeses, deli salads, luncheon meats and frankfurter. Among the various food-borne pathogens, it is the leading cause of death. Thorough cooking or heat treatment destroys the bacterias, so foods that are eaten raw, or that are under-processed to start with, are the most likely dangers.

Listeria is more associated with animal products including dairy, meat, poultry, and seafood, but outbreaks do sometimes occur from vegetables and fruits. All kinds of leafy vegetables, including lettuce, spinach, and cabbage, cucumbers, mushrooms, radishes, and bean sprouts have the potential to be contaminated with the bacteria. This is due to animals such as deer or sheep defecating near are on the vegetables or fruits, as feces can contain large amounts of listeria organisms. Those vegetables that are consumed raw are, of course, the most likely to produce illness.

Listeria is most dangerous to young children, the very old, or those with weakened immune systems. It is also very dangerous for pregnant women, and can cause miscarriages, and stillbirths. Others will recover, after suffering with high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. It may seem like a case of the flu. It takes between 7 to 30 days for symptoms to begin.

Despite some serious outbreaks in the past, and the difficulty of completely eliminating or controlling the organism in food processing facilities, there is little need for healthy individuals to fear routine contamination, although safe-food handling should be used at all times. Washing lettuce and other vegetables before use may help a little, but plain water cannot completely eliminated the bacteria. Commercial vegetable disinfectants, as might be used in food plants, do a much better job, but even these offer no guarantees.

Batch numbers, as we can see from the recalls described above, have made it possible for food companies to quickly recall specific products manufactured within specific dates. This has greatly reduced the danger of a large-scale public outbreak. Food-safety scientist Christine Bruhn, Institute of Food Technologists spokesperson and Director of the Center for Consumer Research at University of California-Davis, talks about who should be most worried about listeria, and gives advise on safety.

Food Scientist Talks About Listeria

This has been only an introductory summary of listeria. See the CDC's comprehensive resource on listeria.

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