26/03/19: Another recall of California-grown avocados over listeria fears is the talk of the town

Henry Avocado said this recall was made “out of an abundance of caution” due to positive test results on environmental samples taken during a routine government inspection at its California packing facility.  But it follows the Henry Avocado recall on March 23 of California-grown conventional and organic avocados.

“We are barely getting a chance to breathe between recalls,” commented national consumer advocate Adam Garber.

“What stands out is the breadth of dangers we’re seeing because of failures in the food safety system, said Garber, who is with the U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog. “Last week, Tyson’s recalls chicken because it might contain metal, and now avocados are potentially laced with listeria, a bacteria that a little more than a year ago killed 200 in South Africa.

Garber says the second major recall of avocados in less than a week underscores the need to refocus food safety efforts to ensure that “Americans are safe every time they sit down to eat a meal.”

Michael Droke, a partner with the NYC-based Dorsey & Whitney law firm, says  “the recent multi-state avocado recall is occurring just when consumers are making their favourite March Madness guacamole.  Many will be surprised to learn that even fruits and vegetables with an inedible shell can be contaminated.

Droke, who represents agriculture and food-based companies, says avocados are sliced before processing, which can transmit Listeria or other food-borne pathogens into the edible section beneath the inedible shell.  

He says consumers should carefully wash all potentially contaminated food before cutting or using, including any surfaces used to prepare their food.  Suppliers and packers must remain vigilant in the face of foodborne illnesses.

“This type of voluntary recall became more prevalent after the FDA received legislative authority to mandate recalls, Droke added. “The threat of a forced recall has led many producers and suppliers to increase the frequency of voluntary recalls.  Recent actions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as last year’s Romaine lettuce recall, have also increased producer awareness and the likelihood of a voluntary recall.”

 No known illnesses are associated with the avocado recalls.

Escondido-based Henry Avocado is one of the oldest avocado growers in California. The original Henry farm has been in continuous avocado production since 1925.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Others may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The recalled products – California-grown conventional and organic avocados — were packed at Henry Avocado’s packing facility in California and distributed in Arizona, California, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.  All shipments from the packing facility are subject to the recall (Henry Avocado did not begin packing there until late January 2019).  Avocados imported from Mexico and distributed by Henry Avocado are not subject to the recall and may continue to be sold and consumed.

Henry Avocado is contacting all affected customers to confirm that the recalled products are immediately removed from store shelves.  For conventional products purchased at retail, consumers can identify the recalled products by the “Bravocado” stickers. Henry Avocado organic products do not carry the “Bravocado” label on the sticker.  Instead, those products are labelled “organic” and include “California” on the sticker.  Retailers can identify Henry Avocado organic products by the bar code on the stickers.

Consumers who have purchased any recalled avocados are urged not to consume them, but to discard them or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.  Henry Avocado Corporation says it is fully cooperating with federal and California health officials to facilitate an efficient and complete recall of these avocados.

“We are voluntarily recalling our products and taking every action possible to ensure the safety of consumers who eat our avocados,” says Phil Henry, President of Henry Avocado.

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