Federal officials in the United States are investigating the supply chain of frozen vegetables linked to a deadly, international Listeria outbreak. Nine people in Europe and one in Australia who were infected with the outbreak strain have died.

Food safety officials in Europe reported earlier this week that the implicated frozen vegetables had been distributed to at least 107 countries and territories, including the United States and Canada.

“We are aware and monitoring the situation but no illnesses associated with these frozen vegetables have been reported in the U.S.,” the CDC’s Brittany Behm told Food Safety News on Thursday.

In addition to international agencies, epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are also working with investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA’s George Decker said no recalls in the United States are associated with the frozen vegetables produced and distributed by Greenyard Frozen, which is a division of Belgium-based Greenyard Group.

“The FDA and CDC routinely monitor for outbreak signals across the country and we are investigating the supply chain provided by INFOSAN,” Decker told Food Safety News. 

“If the FDA determines there is a risk to public health we will alert consumers and work to remove the product from the marketplace.” 

Greenyard has recalled its frozen vegetables and temporarily closed a production plant in Hungary until further notice. The vegetables are packaged under a variety of brand names and distributed to a variety of retail chains.

“The recall was initiated following a decision taken by the Hungarian Food Safety Agency of June 29 in the framework of an investigation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) regarding said outbreak,” according to a Greenyard news release posted July 18. 

“We have taken all necessary measures to preserve food safety and we are committed to inform the market as the matter evolves and more information becomes available.”

Food safety authorities have isolated the unusual strain of Listeria monocytogenes, which has infected 47 people in five European countries, from samples of Greenyard products as well as in multiple locations inside the company’s production plant.

Greenyard’s news release said the corporation has a workforce of 9,000 people in 27 countries. In 2016 its operations had a combined annual “turnover” of more than $4.6 billion (€4 billion). The recall costs related to the outbreak will be about $35 million (€30 million), according to the news release. 

Advice to consumers
Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated frozen vegetable products and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should immediately seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the pathogen. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose listeriosis, the infection caused by Listeria bacteria.

Also, even if they are not sick now, anyone who has eaten the recalled vegetables should monitor themselves for symptoms because it can take up to 70 days for symptoms of listeriosis to develop.

Although healthy adults may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Other high-risk groups for serious infections that are sometimes fatal include young children, older people and anyone with a suppressed immune system.

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