The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning Americans of an outbreak of listeria in fruit as one person has died and nearly a dozen others have been hospitalized after eating peaches, nectarines and plums contaminated with the bacteria .
Researchers said contaminated fresh, whole fruit was sold in stores across the country starting in May 2023. They came from California-based HMC Farms, which says it specializes in growing peaches, nectarines, plums and grapes.
Americans are urged to throw out all produce and check their freezers for fruit they may have frozen. They should also clean their freezers to prevent contamination.
The CDC said the fruits had been sold nationwide. Illnesses had only been reported in seven states, but they said it was likely other cases had been missed as well
Among the fruits thought to have spread listeria were peaches sold by HMC Farms in stores across the U.S.
Above you see the plums and peaches that may be contaminated with listeria
Listeria is a bacterium that can cause the disease listeriosis, which causes symptoms such as headache, stiffness and diarrhea in healthy adults.
It is especially dangerous for pregnant women and adults over 65, who have weakened immune systems.
The CDC discovered the contamination after interviewing patients about the foods they consumed before their illness.
Samples from patients were also tested, which showed that their listeria infections were closely matched genetically.
It was not clear how listeria got into the fruits, but in previous cases they became contaminated when farmers watered their crops with water contaminated with animal feces.
It can also happen in packaging facilities that a device becomes contaminated with listeria. It can transmit this to fruit when it comes into contact with the contaminated surface.
The affected fruits were sold in the U.S. from May to November 2022 and from May to November this year, the CDC said.
Of the patients, one was a pregnant woman who was hospitalized and went into premature labor due to the infection.
One death and two hospitalizations were reported in California.
Three people were also hospitalized in Florida and one each in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan and Ohio.
The average age of the patients was 69 yearsthree quarters of whom are over 65 years old. The majority were male and of white ethnic background.
However, the CDC warned the actual number was “likely higher” because some people could have recovered without medical care or had never been tested for listeria.
HMC Farms has now issued a recall for peaches, plums and nectarines it sold during the affected periods.
These fruits are no longer on shelves, but officials fear people could still have them at home.
White nectarines can also be contaminated with listeria, according to the CDC
The above shows the timeline of diseases associated with the fruits. They were sold between May and November last year and this year
HMC Farms specializes in growing peaches, plums, nectarines and grapes on 2,200 acres in Kingsbury, Southern California.
The recalled fruit was sold as individual pieces in stores nationwide, the recall notice said.
The CDC warned that symptoms of a listeria infection normally begin within two weeks of infection, but can begin the same day or as late as 10 weeks afterward.
Patients usually start with fever, muscle aches and fatigue.
They may also experience headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and seizures.
One in five people infected with the bacteria does not survive, surveillance shows.