Monday, August 27, 2012

Romaine lettuce recalled due to Listeria

Fresh Express is recalling bags of romaine lettuce hearts due to a sample testing positive for Listeria.  The release below indicates the product was tested by FDA.  There have been no reported illnesses.  At this point, the expiration date on the product had passed so it is anticipated that there will be no product on the store shelf.
Why conduct a recall on expired product?  In the event product still might be on some store shelf, or in someone's refrigerator, it is important to remove it.  Especially considering that Listeria can grow at refrigerated temperatures.  Also, expired product may move through the food donation system (food banks and pantries).  Some of these outlets allow for the movement of product that has gone beyond the stated shelf-life.  Then on top of that, it is important that the company show it has taken corrective action.

Why test product about to expire?  This is probably a market survey, so product may have already traveled from the production facility to the retail level.  With a limited shelf-life product like leafy greens, there is not a big window of time.  Adding this to the time it takes for testing and positive confirmation, then it is likely that the product has already surpassed its stated shelf-life. 

But a sampling program such as this does give important information.  With little doubt, the FDA is paying a visit to this facility to see how the product may have become contaminated.  In a product such as this where there are processing steps including the removal of the outer leaves and a multiple wash step, which will include some antimicrobial agent(s), there is a good likelihood that the contamination occurred at the processing facility.


FDA News Release

Fresh Express Recalls Limited Quantity of Expired 10 oz. Hearts of Romaine Salad Due to Possible Health Risk
Tiffany Breaux
Barbara Hines

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - August 26, 2012 - Fresh Express Incorporated is voluntarily recalling a limited quantity of expired 10 oz. Hearts of Romaine salad with the expired Use-by Date of August 23, 2012 and a Product Code beginning with "G222" as a precaution due to a possible health risk from Listeria monocytogenes.

No illnesses are reported in association with the recall. No other Fresh Express products are being recalled.

Fresh Express customer service representatives are already contacting retailers to confirm the product was removed from their inventories and store shelves in accordance with standard procedures for products that have reached their expiration date. Customers with questions may contact their Fresh Express customer service representative.

In an unlikely event that consumers may still have this expired product in their refrigerators, it should not be consumed, but discarded instead. Consumers with questions may call the Fresh Express Consumer Response Center at (800) 242-5472 during the hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

The precautionary recall notification for the now-expired salad is being issued due to an isolated incident in which a sample of a singled package of 10 oz. Hearts of Romaine salad yielded a positive result for Listeria monocytogenes as part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s random sample testing program. Fresh Express is continuing to coordinate closely with regulatory officials.

The limited quantity of recalled product is identified with a Product Code beginning with "G222" and a Use-by Date of August 23, which is located in the upper right-hand corner of the package. In addition, the UPC Code of 71279 26102 is located on the back of the package below the barcode. The 10 oz. Hearts of Romaine was distributed in limited quantities to predominantly eastern and southeastern states.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can cause foodborne illness in a person who eats a food item contaminated with it. Symptoms of infection may include fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If it spreads to the nervous system symptoms may include headache, stiff neck or confusion. The illness primarily affects pregnant women and adults with weakened immune systems. Most healthy adults and children rarely become seriously ill.


The expired Fresh Express Hearts of Romaine salads being recalled display a use-by date of August 23, 2012 with a Product Code beginning with G222.

Fresh ExpressHearts of Romaine10 ozBag7127926102AL, AR, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NC, OH, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV

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