Contaminated Fruit at the Center of Two Huge Recalls

A dangerous bacterium has contaminated some of summer's tastiest fruits.

August 13, 2012

Check your fridge for recalled cantaloupes and apples!

Fruit season is at its height, and this summer, like last, fruit is at the center of two major food-safety recalls affecting dozens of states.


Cantaloupe and Honeydew

North Carolina–based Burch Farms is recalling cantaloupes and melons grown on its farm because the fruits have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that can cause serious, even fatal, infections in children and the elderly and miscarriages or stillbirths in pregnant women. Initially, the recall involved 189,000 cases of cantaloupes, but it has since been expanded to include all cantaloupes and honeydews grown at the farm this season.

The recalled cantaloupes and honeydew melons were shipped between June 23rd and July 27th, to the following states: FL, GA, IL, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, VA, VT, and WV.

Government regulators detected the contamination during routine testing of the farm's packing facilities, which were found to be "unsanitary," according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unsanitary conditions at packing facilities were ultimately the cause of the nation's deadliest foodborne illness outbreak, which happened last summer. That recall also involved Listeria-contaminated cantaloupes and was responsible for at least 33 deaths and more than 140 illnesses.

Toss Your Melons: Listeria Outbreak of 2011 Deadliest in a Decade

The fruits involved in the current recall bear a red label reading "Burch Farms" with the PLU code #4319. However, some of the fruits have the same PLU code but stickers that say "Cottle Strawberry Inc." (a separate farm that didn't grow or pack any of the melons involved in the recall).

Because some varieties of cantaloupe have a long shelf life, there is some possibility that these are still in people's refrigerators, so check the stickers before cutting up your melons!

Tainted Apple Products

Also last week, Missa Bay, a subsidiary of New Jersey–based Ready Pac Foods, recalled 293,488 cases of apples and 296,224 individual packages of apples and vegetable and sandwich products that contain apples, all of which have been contaminated with Listeria. The products were sent to distributors and stores in AL, AR, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NE, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, VT, VA, WI, and WV.

Some of the packaged apples have been handed out at Burger King and McDonald's restaurants, and many were relabeled under private-label products sold at Wawa, Wegmans, Hannaford's, Safeway, as well as the company's own Ready Pac brand name. For a complete list of products included in the recall and their associated UPC codes, see

All the affected products bear use-by dates of July 8, 2012, through August 20, 2012.

Where Listeria Comes From

Fortunately, neither recall has made anyone sick, the FDA has said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Listeria is commonly found in soil and water, and typically crops up in meat and dairy products. But it can affect produce that passes through contaminated processing plants, where Listeria can live for years. Listeria can be killed during cooking, but that's not going to help disinfect contaminated cantaloupe, which are usually eaten raw. Sometimes, the fruit itself is contaminated, but other times, the bacteria live on the outside and are transferred to the fruit when it's cut.

The infection from the bacterium can be fatal in certain people, but average healthy adults will experience less-severe symptoms, including muscle aches and fever, headache, stiff neck, confusion, and loss of balance. In rare cases, healthy people may experience convulsions.

For complete details on both recalls, visit

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