Advisory #2: Listeria Infection: What To Do If You’ve Eaten Contaminated Apples

by Dr Willie Ong


Listeria infection is caused by eating food contaminated with listeria bacteria. The bacteria can be found in the soil and animal feces. You can get listeria by eating contaminated vegetables, animal meat, and certain processed foods like hot dogs and deli meats. Be alert to food recalls by the FDA.

Symptoms of listeria infection include fever, chills, nausea, muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or stomach cramps. These can appear a few days up to 2 months after eating the contaminated food. Healthy people may exhibit no symptoms and not get sick.

However, Listeria can be a life-threatening disease for those with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, babies and the elderly. Some people have died as a result.

As a complication, listeria infection can spread to the nervous system (bacterial meningitis), causing headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions.

A pregnant mother is likely to recover from a listeria infection, however it is very dangerous to the unborn baby. Death may occur before birth or after birth.

Early diagnosis is essential. A blood test can determine if a person has listeria infection.

Treatment of listeria infection depends on the severity of the symptoms. Mild symptoms may require no treatment. More serious symptoms require hospitalization and prompt antibiotic treatment.


What To Do If You’ve Eaten Contaminated Food:

1. If you have eaten food that may be contaminated with Listeria, monitor yourself for symptoms of fever, nausea and diarrhea within the next 2 months.

2. If you have any symptoms, see your doctor and inform him that you’ve eaten contaminated food. The more serious the symptoms, the earlier you should see your doctor.

3. If you have high fever, severe headache, stiff neck or confusion, go to an emergency room immediately. These symptoms may indicate a serious infection of the brain and spinal cord.

Health Advice: Pending official government advisory.

1. Don’t buy California-grown apples, specifically those with Gala and Granny Smith brands. If you have these apples in your refrigerator, throw them away.

2. If you cannot determine where the apples came from, then it’s best to just throw them away.

3. Since the Listeria bacteria can survive very cold temperatures, an infected food product can contaminate other food items in the refrigerator. Hence, you have to sanitize the walls and shelves of your refrigerator. Use a solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach added to 1 gallon of hot water. You should sanitize the chopping boards, utensils and counter tops that came in contact with these items. Wash your hands often with soap and water.

4. Keep your kitchen clean and cook food thoroughly.

5. Scrub vegetables and fruits before cooking or eating.

6. Wash your hands often.

Outbreak in California-grown Apples:

Since December of 2014, an apple packing plant in California, USA, has been linked to a deadly listeria outbreak according to the U.S. FDA.

On January 6, 2015, Bidart Brothers of Bakersfield, California voluntarily recalled all Granny Smith and Gala apples after environmental testing showed positive contamination with Listeria at the firm’s apple packing facility. Some apples may not have brand names at all.

As of January 10, 2015, a total of 32 people across 11 states have been infected with listeria. Seven deaths have been reported.

A bacteria called listeria was first found in prepackaged caramel apples. But the US FDA is concerned that even fresh apples may be contaminated, thus they informed several countries that imports these products, including the Philippines.

In a Philippine Daily Inquirer news report (Jan. 15, 2015), it states that the US FDA had informed the Philippines that the Gala apples (“Big B”) and Granny Smith apples (“Granny’s Best” or “Big B”) from the 2014 production were being recalled due to their association with the Listeriosis outbreak.

The report continues, “Some of these recalled apples have been exported to the Philippines through its consignees, International ProduceGroup LLC, and MB Fresh International. About 30,000 cartons of Gala apples (40 lb. per carton); 345,000 cartons of Granny Smith; and 600 Triwall (700 lbs.) were shipped to the Philippines.”

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Related reading:

Advisory from Doc Willie Ong: Huwag bumili o kumain ng apples na ito

Clarificatory statement of the US Embassy regarding contaminated US Granny and Gala apples

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