Fresh Express Expands Recall for Listeria-Tainted Romaine Lettuce

Fresh Express Incorporated just expanded its recall of Listeria-tainted Romaine lettuce, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced.

The expanded recall now involves expired 18-ounce Hearts of Hearts of Romaine Salad with an expired Use-by Date of September 26, 2012, Product Code H256808, and UPC 071279-262017.  The Product Code and Use-By Date appear in the upper, right-hand corner of the package. Fresh Express previously recalled expired 10-ounce Hearts of Romaine Salads with the expired Use-by Date of August 23, 2012 and a Product Code beginning with “G222.″

The recent recall was prompted by an incident in which a single package of 18-ounce Hearts of Romaine salad yielded a positive result for the Listeria monocytogenes pathogen. The sampling was part of the FDA random sample testing program.

According to Fresh Express, no consumer complaints have been received by its Consumer Response Center associated with this recall and no other Fresh Express products are involved in this recall. The potentially contaminated Fresh Express Romaine salads were distributed primarily in the Northeast and Midwest United States, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, DC, and West Virginia.

Fresh Express customer service representatives are contacting retailers to confirm the recalled Romaine was removed from their inventories and store shelves in accordance with standard procedures for expired products. Customers with questions may contact their Fresh Express customer service representative. Consumers may contact the Fresh Express Consumer Response Center, toll-free, at 1.800.242.5472 from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

The firm advises consumers in possession of the expired, recalled Romaine to discard and not consume the salad.

The Listeria pathogen is unique because it thrives in colder temperatures, such as those found in refrigerated environments. Listeria also has an unusually long incubation period—up to 70 days, according to experts. The pathogen also well tolerates heat and dry temperatures, adding further challenges to the pathogen’s eradication and length to expected reporting time frames.

Listeria monocytogenes can lead to the listeriosis infection, a potentially fatal disorder that can cause high fever; severe headache, neck stiffness, abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhea, and nausea, especially in those with weakened immune systems, infants, and the elderly. Vulnerable populations, such as the developing fetus, can suffer serious central nervous system problems. The infection can also prompt premature births, or the death of the fetus via miscarriage and stillbirth; pregnant women are 20 times likelier to become infected. Listeriosis can lead to hearing loss or brain damage in newborns, and to neurological effects and cardio respiratory failure in adults.

Last year, Fresh Express issued a recall of 2,939 cases of its nine-ounce Bag Spinach following random sample test that yielded a positive result for the Salmonella pathogen.

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