The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning Americans of a listeria outbreak in fruit as one person has died and nearly a dozen others have been hospitalized after eating peaches, nectarines and plums contaminated with the bacteria.
Investigators said contaminated fresh whole fruits had been sold in retail stores nationwide from May 2023. They were from California-based HMC Farms, which says it specializes in growing peaches, nectarines, plums and grapes.
Americans are being urged to throw away any products and check their freezers for fruits they may have frozen. They should also clean their freezers in order to avoid contamination.
It is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and adults over 65 years old, who have weakened immune systems.
The CDC detected the contamination after interviewing patients about the foods they had consumed before their illness.
Samples from patients were also tested, which showed their listeria infections were a close genetic match.
It was not clear how listeria got into the fruits, but in previous cases these have become contaminated when farmers water crops with water that has been contaminated with animal feces.
It can also happen in packaging facilities if a piece of equipment becomes contaminated with listeria. It can transfer this to fruits when they come into contact with the contaminated surface.
The affected fruits were sold in the US from May to November 2022 and May to November of this year, the CDC said.
Of the patients, one was a pregnant woman who was hospitalized and went into preterm labor because of the infection.
One death and two hospitalizations were reported in California.
Three people were also hospitalized in Florida and one each in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan and Ohio.
The average age of patients was 69 years old, with three-quarters over the age of 65. The majority were men and from a white ethnic background.
The CDC warned, however, the true number was ‘likely higher’ because some people could have recovered without medical care or were never tested for listeria.
HMC Farms has now issued a recall notice for peaches, plums and nectarines it sold during the affected time periods.
These fruits are no longer on the shelves, but officials fear people could still have them in their homes.
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