Recent Listeria outbreaks raising alarm

Multiple recent examples of recalls due to Listeria outbreaks are causing many to question if enough is being done to test food products before they hit the shelves.

People have enough to worry about. Often the last thing on the list is what to do for dinner. Unfortunately, with the recent contamination of Listeria in multiple food products across the nation, for some unfortunate victims eating a meal or a snack becomes a serious, and potentially deadly, concern.

Two ice cream makers recently issued a recall over Listeria, the bacteria that causes numerous health complications. Ohio-based Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams recalled all of its products bearing its brand name after the Nebraska Department of Agriculture found a Listeria contamination in a random sample in April.

On Monday, April 20, ice cream maker Blue Bell issued a similar recall of its products. The FDA has said the two product recalls were not related. Whatever the underlying cause of each contamination, Jeni's will ultimately destroy over 265 tons of ice cream to prevent consumers from exposure to Listeria. Jeni's also temporarily shut down ice cream shops in six states.

Listeria is found in many foods besides ice cream, however. On April 29, Hy-Vee recalled its Summer Fresh Pasta after concerns were raised about Listeria. Again, it was not clear what caused the Listeria to infect the food product.

Listeria causes fever, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea in people who become infected. Listeria can be deadly, especially for newborns, the elderly, and those with weak immune systems. Pregnant women are also prone to serious consequences from exposure to Listeria, including miscarriage. Thousands of people are exposed to Listeria-contaminated food each year in the U.S. About 16 percent of those cases are fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Does more need to be done to prevent outbreaks?

On April 20, foodborne illness victims from across the U.S. went to Washington, D.C. to address FDA and food industry officials in support of the Food Safety Modernization Act. "It's pretty heartbreaking to know that testing could have saved lives, but not enough testing is being done" said one individual, whose mother died when she ate Listeria-contaminated produce, before Congressional aides. President Obama proposed consolidating three federal agencies responsible for food safety under one umbrella in March, but it is unclear when that will occur, if ever, and even if that would help. Both America's federal regulations and its modern food manufacturing and distribution methods are complex, meaning that preventing food-borne illnesses from reaching consumers is largely the responsibility of the food companies themselves. If a food manufacturer is lax about its safety regulations, then the potential for contaminated food increases exponentially.

Have you been exposed to Listeria?

Perhaps most frighteningly, Listeria can be found across many common foods people eat every day. Foods prone to Listeria contamination include dairy products, fruits, root vegetables, deli meats, and seafood. The food's supposed quality is no guarantee of safety; Sabra, known for its high-end hummus, issued a recall of 30,000 cases earlier this year because of a Listeria outbreak.

It is remarkable that even today, 48,000 Americans contract a food-borne illness each year. There are certainly other things that we look for in food - flavor, cost, ease of preparation - but every consumer trusts that the food they buy at the supermarket is safe, first and foremost.

If you or a loved one has been exposed to Listeria after eating ice cream or other Listeria-infected food product, contact Colley Shroyer Abraham. Our experienced attorneys can help you understand your legal options, hold food companies responsible, and help you to obtain compensation.

Keywords: Listeria, food-borne illness, outbreak, food contagion, personal injury lawsuit.