Four people are dead and at least 36 people across 17 states have been sickened in a three-year Listeria outbreak linked to mushrooms imported from Korea. The virulent strain has hospitalized at least 30 of the patients.

In the outbreak announcement today, the FDA reported that Sun Hong Foods Inc. has recalled all enoki mushrooms it imported from the Republic of Korea.  The company reported the mushrooms were sent to distributors in five states, but the product was sent along to an unknown number of other states and retailers, according to the company’s notice posted by the Food and Drug Administration.

“The firm recalled product after the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development found that a sample of these mushrooms was positive for Listeria monocytogenes,” according to the FDA’s outbreak announcement this afternoon.

“Additionally, the Listeria monocytogenes in the enoki mushrooms distributed by Sun Hong Foods Inc. was determined, by whole genome sequencing, to be a genetic match to the outbreak strain when tested by Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.”

The FDA’s public health officials are urging the certain people to avoid all enoki mushrooms from Korea, not just the product imported bu Sun Hong Foods.

“At this time, high risk groups, including the elderly, people with weakened immune systems or chronic diseases, pregnant women and their newborn babies, should not eat enoki mushrooms from Korea (Republic of Korea), even if they were not part of the Sun Hong Foods Inc. recall,” according to the FDA’s notice.

“Consumers, restaurants, retailers, and high risk groups should discard and not eat, sell, or serve enoki mushrooms if they cannot tell where they came from.”

The specific Sun Hong Foods mushrooms subject to the recall were sold in 7.05-ounce/200-gram clear plastic packaging with a green label. Sun Hong Foods Inc. is printed on the back of the packaging underneath the bar code. These products can be identified by the UPC number 7 426852 625810. Enoki mushrooms are a long thin white mushroom, usually sold in clusters. They are especially popular in East Asian cuisine and are also known as enokitake, golden needle, futu, or lily mushrooms.

New York has been hardest hit so far with 4 confirmed patients. Other states and the number of patients in them are: Arizona with 2, California with 9, Florida with 2, Hawaii with 3, Indiana with 1, Kentucky with 1, Massachusetts with 2, New Jersey with 1, Nevada with 1, Rhode Island with 1, Tennessee with 1), and Virginia with 3.

Illness onset dates confirmed as of today range from Nov. 23, 2016 through Dec. 13, 2019.

About Listeria infections

Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled product and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible Listeria exposure.

Also, anyone who has eaten any of the recalled product should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop. 

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses. 

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth.

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