Referred to as “a very limited quantity” of frozen peas by the producer, the recall of almost 25,000 cases of product from retailers nationwide because of a Listeria risk wasn’t worthy of public notification according to Pinnacle Foods and the FDA.

The recall, voluntarily initiated by processed food giant Pinnacle Foods on Sept. 29, was made public when retailers, wholesalers and the U.S. Defense Commissary Agency started posting their own recall notices.

To view a larger version of the Pinnacle Foods recall notice that a grocery wholesaler shared with its customers, please click on the image.

There is a good chance that consumers have unused portions of the potentially contaminated Birds Eye brand “Baby Sweet Peas” in their homes because of the product’s long shelf life. Best-by dates for the recalled frozen peas are July 5, 2019, and July 6, 2019.

Yesterday afternoon, an “Enforcement Report” by the Food and Drug Administration revealed the depth and breadth of the recall. Prior to that, the agency had not publicized the recall. FDA policy is to post food recalls on its website only after the recalling company has gone public with the situation.

The New Jersey-based Pinnacle recalled 24,690 cases of the frozen Birds Eye peas from 21 states, according to the FDA document. The FDA did not report the volume in pounds. The recalled peas are in 13-ounce packages with the UPC number 14500-02253.

“We are working with this firm in regard to their recall; however, it does not reach the threshold to require a public communication,” an FDA spokesman told Food Safety News shortly before the enforcement report was posted.

The FDA report shows Pinnacle distributed the recalled Birds Eye peas to the following states: Connecticut, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia and Wisconsin.

It is not known if wholesalers or retailers further distributed the frozen peas to other states.

As of Wednesday evening, the Pinnacle Foods website did not appear to have any information about the recall. In addition to Birds Eye, Pinnacle’s brands include such icons as Duncan Hines, Vlasic, Mrs. Butterworth’s, Log Cabin, Mrs. Paul’s, Van De Kamp’s, Armour, Lender’s, Wish Bone, Smart Balance, C&W, Hungry Man and Aunt Jemima.

Pinnacle officials did not provide a copy of their recall notice or answer specific questions submitted by Food Safety News. In an emailed response Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Pinnacle, Sarah Tremallow, reminded consumers to properly cook frozen vegetables.

The notices posted by retailers and wholesalers did not include photos of the specific Birds Eye peas packages that are subject to recall for Listeria. This photo shows one of the company’s package styles.

“The health and safety of our consumers are our top priorities and, as such, Birds Eye Vegetables has voluntarily recalled a very limited quantity of Birds Eye Baby Sweet Peas at the retail level,” according to the Pinnacle spokeswoman. “While there have been no confirmed illnesses reported, we took this action after consultation and agreement with the FDA.

“The vast majority of the product in question has been removed from retail shelves and will be destroyed. No other Birds Eye products are affected. It is important to note, for utmost product quality and safety, all frozen vegetables should be prepared according to the ‘Food Safety and Quality Cooking Instructions’ on the product package.”

On Oct. 2 a grocery wholesaler who distributed some of the recalled peas posted a notice that includes a document on Pinnacle Foods letterhead with a title of “Urgent: Food Recall Notice.” That document states the recall was initiated because a package of Birds Eye peas collected at a retailer “tested positive” for Listeria monocytogenes.

Advice to consumers
Neither FDA nor Pinnacle Foods reported when the recalled peas were available to consumers. Neither have they addressed what consumers should do if they have the recalled Birds Eye peas in their homes. They also did not provide any information for consumers who may have contracted foodborne listeriosis from eating the recalled peas.

Generally, food recalls involving possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination advise consumers to throw out the product or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

Also, consumers are usually advised to seek medical attention if they have developed symptoms of Listeria infection after consuming potentially contaminated food. Symptoms can occur within two weeks of exposure, but can take as long as 70 days to develop in some people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. In some cases an invasive infection spreads beyond the gastrointestinal tract, according to the CDC.

In pregnant women, the infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. Listeria bacteria can also cause serious, sometimes fatal, infections in young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems, including cancer patients.

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