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Peaches Nectarines, and Plums Listeria Outbreak is Over

Posted in Listeria on February 1, 2024

As of January 30, 2024, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to HMC Farms peaches, nectarines, and plums is over.

The Outbreak

So far there have been a total of 11 people linked to the outbreak, meaning their samples matched the outbreak strain of Listeria that was later linked to HMC Farms and their peaches, nectarines, and plums.

At least 10 of those illnesses were serious enough to require hospitalization and one death was reported from California.

One person became sick during their pregnancy and experienced preterm labor.

While only 11 people have been linked to the outbreak, the true number of sick people in this outbreak is likely higher. This is because some people recover without medical care and are not tested for Listeria. Without that crucial data, information is limited.

The outbreak spanned at least 7 states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, and Ohio.

Traceback Investigation Pointed to Peaches, Nectarines, and Plums

Part of the outbreak investigation process involves interviews with those linked to the outbreak. State and local public health officials ask those who fell sick about the foods they ate in the month before they got sick. All of those interviewed reported eating peaches, nectarines, or plums.

That alone may be an indicator. But with a commonly consumed food, more factors must be taken into consideration. The CDC also conducts a “case-case analysis” that compares food reported by people in this outbreak to foods reported by people who also became sick from Listeria that were not part of an outbreak. In this case, those involved in the outbreak were 18 times more likely to eat peaches, nectarines, or plums than sick people not in the outbreak.

This suggested that peaches, nectarines, and plums were a likely suspect.

Laboratory Data Pointed to HMC Farms

Public health investigators use a foodborne illness database known as PulseNet to identify illnesses that might be a part of this outbreak. When someone falls sick from a foodborne illness, their sample is analyzed, and the genetic data is uploaded to the system. This allows investigators to see a trend in pathogen cases and may link illnesses with bacterial strains that closely are related.

The Listeria strain in question was identified as the outbreak strain as the whole genome sequencing data showed the bacterial samples from each case were closely related.

This genetic data was matched to an US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sample of HMC Farms peaches that were taken for testing. Shortly after, whole genome sequencing of those HMC peach samples indicated that they were closely related to the outbreak strain.

This means that people likely got sick from eating those peaches.

The Recall

The HMC Group Marketing, Inc., doing business as HMC Farms issued a voluntary recall on November 17, 2023. This initial recall was for peaches, plums, and nectarines sold in retail stores between May 1 and November 15, 2022, and between May 1 and November 15, 2023.

These recalled fruits were distributed nationwide and sold at retail stores as individual pieces of fruit or in consumer packaging.

The recall only applies to the conventionally grown fruit. Organic fruit from this farm was not part of the recall.

Unfortunately, certain retail locations may have been repacked from their original packaging and thus unrecognizable as part of the recall.

While this is not an entirely comprehensive list, a digital version of potential repackaged retail product can be found here.

The FDA warns that fruit may have been frozen, so while all recalled products sold are beyond their expiration dates, some of the potentially contaminated peaches, nectarines, and plums may still be in people’s homes.

Symptoms of Listeriosis

Listeriosis is the infection caused by the harmful bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes. While commonly associated with dairy products, Listeria can be found lurking in a variety of produce and other foods. Each year an estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis, and about 260 die from the infection.

While anyone can become infected with Listeria, most normally healthy people do not become seriously ill. Certain groups of people, such as pregnant people and their newborns, the elderly aged 65 and older, and those with a weakened immune system are more likely to experience serious illness.

Intestinal Illness

The most common symptoms of listeriosis involve intestinal illness. This is often associated with vomiting and diarrheal symptoms.

Intestinal illness symptoms often begin within 24 hours of consuming a contaminated food. These symptoms generally last around 1 to 3 days.

Unless in a high-risk demographic, most people with listeriosis do not need antibiotic treatment and can simply treat symptoms and hydrate until the illness passes.

While intestinal symptoms can range from mild to severe, they can also evolve to more serious invasive illness.

Invasive Illness

Invasive illness occurs when Listeria bacteria make its way beyond the digestive system and into other parts of the body. This form of listeriosis affects pregnant and non-pregnant people differently. These symptoms usually begin about 2 weeks after consuming a contaminated food.

Pregnant people generally experience milder personal symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. The main threat is associated with the unborn child. Listeriosis during pregnancy can lead to still birth, premature delivery, miscarriage, or life-threatening infection in the newborn.

People who are not pregnant often experience symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. Fever and muscle aches are also possible symptoms. This type of illness can be serious and life-threatening. 1 in 20 non-pregnant people with invasive listeriosis will die.

Most people with invasive listeriosis require medical treatment, and often need hospitalization.

Have You Become Sick from Eating Peaches, Nectarines, or Plums from HMC Farms?

If you have fallen sick from eating peaches, nectarines, or plums from HMC Farms, you may be eligible for legal compensation. The burden of lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses add up.

The Lange Law Firm, PLLC has helped many families with cases just like yours help hold accountable those responsible for foodborne illness. An experience Listeria lawyer can help navigate you through the legal process.

Call (833) 330-3663 or submit your information on the online submission form for a free consultation.

By: Heather Van Tassell