Major Ice Cream Brands Issue Shocking Recall Across US

Summer is synonymous with enjoying ice cream, but recently a chilling bacterial outbreak in 11 US states seems to have broken the tradition.

More than 60 ice cream products from several major ice cream brands including Friendly’s, Jeni’s, Hershey’s, Chipwich, and more have been recalling their products due to fears that they may be contaminated with listeria, according to a press release by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this week.

In the United States, listeria, is the third leading cause of death from foodborne illness, killing about 260 a year, according to the CDC. Its presence in dozens of commonly consumed dairy products has become a cause of concern for authorities.

What is listeria?

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), bacterial infection also known as listeriosis, is typically contracted by consuming foods infected with the bacteria named Listeria monocytogenes.

Bones, joints, and locations in the chest and abdomen are among the various body parts that listeria infections might sometimes affect.

The bacterium is also “a hardy germ, and it is tough — it can survive for a long time,” Dr. Gieraltowski told The Washington Post. It is so determined to stick around that it can continue to grow while refrigerated, which even fellow bacterial villains salmonella and E. coli cannot do.

How does it end up in food?

Listeria bacteria, naturally found in soil, can contaminate plants and animals that come into contact with it. When food tainted with listeria reaches kitchens, the bacteria can spread to counters, deli slicers, and other food preparation surfaces, potentially contaminating other foods.

Expert Catherine Donnelly told The Washington Post, that listeria’s ability to form biofilms allows it to adhere even to stainless steel surfaces. It can even end up on knives we use while cooking and also simultaneously infect the food we consume.

Past listeriosis outbreaks in the US have been linked to a variety of foods, including raw and unpasteurised milk, cheese, ice cream, and raw or processed fruits and vegetables. Additionally, raw or undercooked poultry, sausages, hot dogs, deli meats, and raw or smoked seafood have also been implicated.

The bacterium has also made its way to raw pet food.

Listeria bacteria, naturally found in soil, can contaminate plants and animals that come into contact with it.
Listeria bacteria, naturally found in soil, can contaminate plants and animals that come into contact with it.

Which brands are recalling their products?

Major Maryland-based ice cream producer ‘Totally Cool’ has initiated a nationwide recall of products from around 13 brands, including Abilyn’s Frozen Bakery, Amafruits, Chipwich, Cumberland Farms, Dolcezza Gelato, Friendly’s, Hershey’s Ice Cream, Jeni’s, LaSalle, Marco, Taharka Brothers, the Frozen Farmer, and Yelloh.

The significant recall impacted as many as 67 products, including a wide variety of ice cream cones, cakes, sandwiches, and sorbets that were shipped across the country and available at retail stores and for direct delivery.

Although no illnesses have been reported, the FDA has urged consumers to return the affected products for a refund. It added that Totally Cool has ceased production and distribution of these items while further investigation takes place.

This isn’t the first recall this year. Earlier, the FDA issued a listeria-related recall involving yogurt, sour cream, salad dressings, kits, and other foods made with ingredients from California-based Rizo López Foods.

Last year, thousands of Cadbury dessert products were pulled from supermarket shelves throughout the United Kingdom after concerns of listeria contamination had surfaced.

What happens when someone has listeria?

Symptoms of listeriosis might vary based on the person infected and the part of the body affected.

According to the FDA, early signs of listeriosis are comparable to flu-like symptoms and may develop in a couple of weeks. The infected person may suffer from fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

According to Dr. Gieraltowski, people with such mild symptoms will likely not need any kind of treatment and will start to feel better on their own.

However, if the person develops a more severe form of listeriosis, it could lead to headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and even convulsions.

Who is at the risk?

Elderly above 65, pregnant women, and people with chronic diseases or immunocompromised systems are most at risk, according to the CDC.

Pregnant women are about 10 times more likely to become sick from listeria. While they typically experience only fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches, cases of severe infections can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn, the public health agency said.

Some persons with listeria infections may also develop serious infections of the bloodstream (producing sepsis) or brain (causing meningitis or encephalitis).

An estimated 1,600 Americans get listeriosis every year, according to the CDC, but the high mortality rate of about 20 per cent to 30 per cent is what is worries the health authorities.

How to stay safe?

“Listeriosis is a serious, but preventable and treatable disease,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Protecting food from Listeria involves similar measures to those for other foodborne infections. These include washing raw produce and cooking meat to USDA-recommended temperatures. The CDC advises consuming leftovers within three to four days and keeping the refrigerator at 5 degree Celsius or lower. The freezer should be at minus 18 degree Celsius or lower.

WHO identifies high-risk foods as deli meats, ready-to-eat meat products, soft cheeses, and cold-smoked fish.
Further, the CDC also recommends avoiding raw milk, melons, and sprouts among other food items which can harbour bacterial growth.

With input from agencies

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