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The 2021 outbreaks included fresh produce, deli meats, poultry and frozen shrimp


Although the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the headlines in terms of disease, food-borne pathogens also made the United States sick in 2021. Packaged leafy greens were the cause of four outbreaks.

Two outbreaks of Listeria monocytogenes infections were announced earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both have been attributed to bagged salads. The contamination led Fresh Express and Dole to recall a total of more than 200 varieties of packaged salads.

The outbreak linked to the Fresh Express recall had killed one and sickened at least 10 people in eight states when the CDC last updated on December 22.

The Dole recall outbreak had killed two people and sickened at least 16 people in 13 states as of the CDC’s update on December 22.

The Fresh Express and Dole recalls involved salads packaged under those company names, as well as various store brands such as those sold in Walmart, Safeway and Kroger stores.

Listeria infections are difficult to track due to the long incubation period, which can be up to 70 days, complicating outbreak investigations, according to the CDC.

CDC and Food and Drug Administration investigators continue to work on outbreaks related to Fresh Express and Dole salads at the end of the year.

Another leafy greens outbreak has been attributed to baby spinach sold by and under the Josie’s Organics brand. The outbreak of infections involves E. Coli O157-H7. It had sickened at least 14 people in nine states when the CDC last updated on December 3.

Packaged leafy greens were responsible for another outbreak. Bright Farms salad has been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella infections. At least 31 people in four states have been confirmed patients in the outbreak.

By far the biggest outbreak is ongoing and involves fresh onions imported from Mexico. The CDC has not updated figures for the Salmonella outbreak since November 16, but by that time, 892 patients in 38 states and Puerto Rico had been confirmed. The outbreak investigation was ongoing as of December 27.

Several companies recalled onions sold under various brands and coming from unlabeled bulk bins. All of the recalled onions were supplied by ProSource Produce LLC and Keeler Family Farms and imported from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.

Other outbreaks
A wide range of foods were responsible for outbreaks in 2021. The CDC has reported that it is very likely that more people will be sick in a given outbreak than what is reported by the agency. This is partly because some people who get sick do not see a doctor. Others who go to the doctor or emergency room are not tested for pathogens. Specific tests are needed to determine whether the illnesses are caused by foodborne pathogens or other bacteria or viruses.

The 2021 epidemics included, in no particular order, the following.

  • An outbreak of E. coli O121 infections involved cake mixes, but neither the FDA nor the CDC were able to focus on specific brands or flavors. At least 16 people have fallen ill. Public health officials continue to warn against consuming raw cake dough and cookie dough due to the risks of foodborne pathogens that can be found in raw eggs and raw flour, between other ingredients.
  • El Abuelito’s soft cheeses were the source of a deadly epidemic of Listeria monocytogenes infections. At least one person has died, two women have suffered miscarriages and there has been a premature birth. A total of 13 patients were confirmed and all required hospitalization.
  • Raw, unpasteurized yogurt has caused an outbreak of E. Coli which has been called a single-state epidemic confined to patients in Washington. However, three people in Arizona also fell ill with the epidemic strain after traveling to the northwest. Pure Eire yogurt has been implicated in the outbreak. The company issued a recall. At least 17 people have been infected and four have developed a serious complication involving kidney failure.
  • An outbreak attributed to “Real Water” brand bottled water has sickened at least 21 people. There were also four suspected cases. The outbreak was defined by the CDC as non-viral hepatitis. This type of hepatitis causes acute liver damage through inflammation. The inflammation scars the liver tissue and liver failure can result.
  • An outbreak of Salmonella infections in four states has sickened at least 20 people and has been attributed to Jule’s Foods brie. The company has recalled five varieties of its brie. The epidemic resulted in the hospitalization of five patients.
  • An outbreak of E. coli of unknown origin killed one. A total of 22 patients have been confirmed including 11 requiring hospitalization. People in seven states have been affected. The CDC has closed the investigation and reminded the public to practice safe food handling procedures in the home: clean, separate, cook and refrigerate.
  • Ground turkey was the source of an outbreak of Salmonella Hadar. A total of 33 patients have been confirmed in 14 states. The CDC reported that four people were so sick they had to be hospitalized. The US Department of Agriculture has issued a public alert regarding more than 211,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products produced by Plainville Brands LLC. A recall was not requested as it was believed the products were no longer available to consumers.
  • Breaded, pre-burned and stuffed raw and frozen chicken products have been the source of an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections. At least 36 people in 11 states have been ill. Three brands of chicken products were recalled: Dutch Farms, Milford Valley and Kirkwood. The CDC has remained consumers to fully cook frozen chicken products even though they appear to have been browned.
  • The CDC determined that frozen and cooked shrimp was the cause of an outbreak of Salmonella Weltevreden. The outbreak has sickened at least nine people in three states. Cooked shrimp supplied by Avanti Frozen Foods and sold under several brands including 365, Ahold, Big River, Censea, Chicken of the Sea, CWNO, First Street, Food Lion, Hannaford, Harbor Banks, Honest Catch, HOS, Meijer, Nature’s Promise , Open Acres, Sandbar, Sea Cove, Waterfront Bistro, Wellsley Farms and WFNO Brands were involved. Avanti has issued a shrimp recall.
  • Fully cooked chicken supplied by Tyson Foods Inc. was determined to be the cause of an outbreak of infections caused by Listeria monocytogenes. Although only three patients in two states have been confirmed with the epidemic strain, one person has died. All three required hospitalization, and the CDC has signaled other illnesses are likely. Tyson has recalled nearly 9 million pounds of chicken products.
  • An outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections has been attributed to Italian dating. At least 40 people in 17 states have been ill. About ten people had to be hospitalized. The epidemic prompted Fratelli Beretta to recall his platters of raw antipasto with prosciutto, soppressata, Milan salami and coppa.
  • Seafood distributed by Northeast Seafood Products was responsible for an outbreak of Salmonella infections, primarily among Colorado residents. There were 115 confirmed cases of the outbreak in 15 states; 20 people were so sick that they had to be hospitalized. The seafood involved included sushi. Investigators determined that the seafood was sold through retailers and restaurants. The company has recalled a variety of products, including salads sold under the Dole and Fresh Express brands.
  • The CDC has determined that an outbreak of Salmonella I 4,[5], 12: i: – was caused by salami stick snacks. Euro Foods has recalled more than 119,000 pounds of Citterio brand “Premium Italian Salam Sticks” due to the outbreak. At least 34 people in 10 states have fallen ill and seven hospitalizations have been reported to the CDC.

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