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Listeria: onions and cantaloupes latest cause of worry

August 02, 2012|By Eryn Brown | Los Angeles Times
  • Gill's Onions in Oxnard, Calif., has recalled diced and slivered onions after one package tested positive for listeria.
Gill's Onions in Oxnard, Calif., has recalled diced and slivered… (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles…)

Gill’s Onions, based in Oxnard, Calif., has issued voluntary recalls of diced and slivered onions because of a possible risk of listeriosis, the company has reported on its website.

The large recall, triggered when the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes were detected at a processing plant, has stores across the country (including Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market) pulling “tons of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook foods” off their shelves, WebMD reported Thursday

Separately, a North Carolina grower has recalled cantaloupes, also citing worries about listeria contamination.         

Elderly people, pregnant women and individuals with weakened immune systems are most at risk of serious illness from listeria infection, according to this website from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Listeriosis can cause fever, muscle aches and diarrhea, as well as miscarriage. There are about 1,600 cases each year in the U.S. 

One bright spot in the onion recall: No one has been sickened by tainted onions, and only one bag of onions has tested positive for listeria, Gill’s said on its website. According to CDC reports, a listeria outbreak in 2011 — which originated in cantaloupes from Colorado’s Jensen Farms and spread through 28 states across the U.S. — infected 146 people, killing 30 and possibly causing a miscarriage in a pregnant woman who fell ill.

The recalls coincide with recent reports that the country is not meeting its goals for reducing foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and listeria.  In this July 28  story about the CDC statistics from the Washington Post, consumer advocates complained that the government has been too slow to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, which should help prevent foodborne illness. 

Click here for onion and cantaloupe recall information from the Food and Drug Administration. 

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