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.
The CDC said the fruits had been sold nationwide. Illnesses had only been reported in seven states, but they said it was likely there were also other cases that were missed
Among the fruits thought to have spread listeria were peaches sold by HMC Farms at retail stores across the US
The above shows the plums and peaches that may be contaminated with listeria
Listeria is a bacteria that can cause the illness listeriosis, which triggers symptoms including headaches, stiffness and diarrhea in healthy adults.
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.
White nectarines could also be contaminated with listeria, the CDC Said
The above shows the timeline of illnesses linked to the fruits. They were sold between May and November last year and this year
HMC Farms specializes in growing peaches, plums, nectarines and grapes across 2,200 acres in Kingsbury, southern California.
The recalled fruit was sold as single pieces in retail stores nationwide, the recall notice states.
The CDC warned symptoms of a listeria infection normally begin within two weeks of infection but could start the same day or as late as 10 weeks after.
Patients usually start off suffering from a fever, muscle aches and tiredness.
They may also develop a headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and seizures.
One in five people infected with the bacteria do not survive, surveillance shows.