Multiple Deaths Attributed to Enoki Mushroom Listeria Outbreak
H.C Foods Co, Ltd., one of the larger Asian food distributors in California, has been added to the list of Enoki mushroom import companies halting distribution. Already on the list are Guan’s Mushroom out of California and Sun Hong Foods, Inc. also a California based company. According to the Center for Disease Control, (CDC,) there have been 36 reported cases of illness associated with this contaminated product, with 30 hospitalizations and 4 people having lost their lives. The CDC indicates a total product recall. Recall of this product from H.C. Foods Co, Ltd. was announced only days ago, although the multi-state distribution of possibly contaminated Enoki mushrooms occurred mid-February to early March. Reportedly, only one grocer received the Listeria-linked mushrooms from H.C. Foods Co, Ltd, identified as Great Wall Supermarket. Guan’s Mushrooms and Sun Hing Foods were sold at multiple grocery stores across about 17 states.
Health officials are advising consumers, stores and restaurants to dispose of all Enoki mushrooms they have in their possession regardless of the source. All distributors package the Enoki’s, with their long, skinny stems topped with tiny caps, in their typical clusters in clear plastic bags. Standard size of these packages from all distributors is 7.05 ounces / 200 grams and bags bear the name of the distributing company.
UPC # is, by distributor:
- H&C Food, Inc: UPC#831211204181
- Guan’s Mushroom: UPC Code 859267007013
- Sun Hong Foods: UPC 7 426852 625810
As is typical with a suspected pathogen outbreak, product testing has linked these delicate mushrooms to Listeria, a foodborne disease which burgeons from a bacterium called listeria monocytogenes. Found in waste, from that of animals or humans, listeria can enter the food cycle at any point. Produce crossing paths with bacteria contaminated water or soil makes its way into our shops, restaurants and homes. Once ingested by a human the symptoms can last for days or weeks and range in severity. The most at-risk of severe symptoms are the elderly, pregnant women and their newborns, and those with a compromised immune system. At minimum, Listeria infections can include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea. Far worse symptoms, however, can elevate to meningitis, cognitive permutations or even death, as has happened with cases inked with this Enoki mushroom outbreak.
If Listeria is suspected, a culture is usually taken from the individual and laboratory tested. Antibiotics are generally the recommended course for treatment of this foodborne illness. However, as with other foodborne pathogens, there are ways to mitigate contraction of this disease. Foods most associated with listeria should be handled with care or avoided completely. According to the CDC the foods of higher concern are certain cheeses, hot dogs and deli meats, sprouts, melons and raw dairy products. Thorough cleaning of produce, safe handling of meats – including proper refrigeration and storage, and sticking to pasteurized dairy products will decrease the chance of coming into contact with Listeria. And, if you have the item linked to a known outbreak, even if the brand in possession is not part of the active recall, such as the with these Enoki mushrooms, the product should be presumed to be contaminated. As such, consumers are urged to discard of this product or return it to the grocery store where is was purchased. And, all surfaces having come in contact with Enoki’s should be thoroughly disinfected.