Fresh fruit recall expands in several states as FDA warns of serious risk

Summer's most refreshing treat, watermelon, has been recalled in several US states due to the risk of contracting a foodborne pathogen called Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause serious illness and even be fatal in some cases. A day after the initial recall was announced, the FDA updated its advisory, noting that additional fresh fruits including apples and pineapple have been recalled by Country Fresh in several states across the US.

The recall

On Friday, the FDA published a voluntary recall from Country Fresh, a company that distributed chunks of watermelon to Walmart and RaceTrac retail distribution centers in multiple states, including Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, and Oklahoma. These watermelon chunks were sold in clamshell containers and feature best-by dates of October 2 – 4, 2020.

The FDA has the full list of UPC codes and SKUs for these recalled products — as well as pictures of the containers — on its website. There haven't been any reports of illness linked to these products and both Walmart and RaceTrac are pulling them from shelves. Anyone who has purchased one of these recalled watermelon products are advised to throw it away.

On October 3, the recall was expanded to include several other varieties of pre-cut fresh fruit sold at Walmart, including mangos, grapes, apples, cantaloupe, and pineapples. These recalled fruits are distributed solely by Walmart in containers labeled 'Freshness Guaranteed.' The FDA says that this expanded recall is a precautionary measure after it found that contaminated machinery was used near where these fruits were packaged.

The expanded recall covers additional states, with the total recall — including the watermelon — applying to the following: AR, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MO, OK, and TX. The long list of recalled fresh fruit products, including their best-by dates and UPC codes, can be found in the new recall noticed here.

What is Listeria?

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria that is found in nature, including in water and soil. For this reason — and the fact that it can continue to grow even on refrigerated foods — it is a somewhat common foodborne pathogen that can lead to an illness called listeriosis. The FDA explains that the severity of this illness varies, but is often most severe in young kids, the elderly, and anyone who has a compromised immune system.

Symptoms can include a variety of issues, including everything from muscle aches, vomiting, and fever in mild cases to a stiff neck, convulsions, confusion, and balance issues in severe cases. In the at-risk groups listed above, infection with this bacteria can be fatal, making it incredibly important to avoid contracting the pathogen entirely.

Due to its common presence, Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks related to food in the US aren't terribly uncommon, though they mostly center around raw fruits and vegetables, and raw unpasteurized dairy. The bacteria may also be present in certain meats and even raw pet foods.