(NaturalNews) Recently, Country Fresh recalled nearly 30,000 cases of various precut vegetables after one of its products being sold in a Georgia-based grocery store tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

The recall affected several of its vegetable products – including sliced onions, mushrooms, and peppers – that were distributed to many Southeastern states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

All affected products were wrapped in clear plastic containers or packaged in Styrofoam trays covered with clear plastic film and sold at Publix, Wal-Mart, Winn Dixie, Harris Teeter Supermarkets and BI-LO.

A full list of the recalled products from the Texas-based company is available at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website.

How did these bacteria end up on the veggies?

Listeria monocytogenes is a natural occurring bacteria in soil and water. Animals can carry the bacteria without showing signs of illness. Through contact with contaminated soil or animal manure that is often used as a fertilizer, the bacteria can end up on raw vegetables and equipment of food processing factories.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Listeria can live for years on the surface of equipment. It even survives the colder temperatures of refrigerators and freezers.

“It’s a pathogen that’s particularly problematic in food-processing plants because it really likes cold, moist, dark environments,” Benjamin Chapman, a food safety expert at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, told Live Science.

Who is at risk

Illness from Listeria monocytogenes can be rather serious and in some cases lethal, especially for elderly people, young children, and immunosuppressed people. Healthy individuals will probably only suffer short-term symptoms such as high fever, headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, while infections among pregnant women can cause miscarriages and stillbirths.

According to the FDA, the company hasn’t received any reports of illness linked to the contaminated products from Country Fresh. However, if you have eaten any of the recalled vegetables with best-by dates between August 7 and August 19 you should closely monitor your health. Children who have consumed these foods should be closely monitored as well as the elderly and people who are otherwise immuno-compromised, as they are more prone to infection.

Listeriosis, caused by the listeria bacteria, can take up to 70 days after exposure before causing symptoms.

Make sure to check your freezer too. If you froze any of the products on the list, you should return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

How to prevent infection

Thanks to the quick decision of Country Fresh to recall its products the contamination was caught before any illness was reported. However, listeria outbreaks are not uncommon in the food industry.

Other food items prone to listeria contamination include raw milk, unpasteurized soft cheese, and deli meats.

Therefore, the CDC recommends to thoroughly wash or scrub fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting or cooking. Always separate uncooked foods from the cooked ones and wash your hands afterward, as well as the knives and cutting boards you used for the foods. Furthermore, they advise people to drink pasteurized milk and only consume ready-to-eat foods if they are steaming hot.

Sources:
FoodSafetyNews.com
LiveScience.com
FDA.gov