By Sarah Doyle

On Dec. 2, 2019, Trader Joe’s all around the country recalled items from their food departments. Recalls are not common unless something is serious, and in the case of Trader Joe’s goods, listeria could be the culprit.

Several products including easy ready-to-eat meals like California Rolls, Tempura Shrimp Crunch Rolls, Smoked Salmon Philly Roll, Tofu Spring Rolls, Classic California Rolls with Brown Rice, Smoked Salmon Poké Bowl, the ever-iconic Banh Mi Inspired Noodle Bowl, and most shockingly, the Queso Fundido Spicy Cheese Dip were all recalled upon examination for possible contamination with listeria. 

These problems have been traced back to an issue at a facility in Massachutts from the Fuji Food manufacturer that supplied products not only for Trader Joes, but also for stores such as 7-Eleven, Food Lion, Walgreens, Porky, Supreme Lobster, and Superior Foods. These stores will also be issuing similar warnings about possible problems with their food and affected products.

This is a momentous occasion as it is the first recall from the Massachusetts supplier in Trader Joe’s history. In the meantime, the facility has closed down until further examination from the FDA gives them the green light for resuming regular activities and production. 

Fortunately, those people, who have already purchased these products and were lucky to have not consumed them in the parking lot, can return the products to a local Trader Joe’s for full compensation. For those who consumed them, compensation will only be given in the form of a lawsuit should they contract illness from the bacteria. As of now, no cases of illness have been reported, but precautionary measures must be taken to ensure that the number stays at zero. The incubation period for listeria is anywhere from 11-70 days so statistics and more information on the reported cases will be forthcoming. 

Why is Listeria Worth a Recall of Beloved Products?

Listeria is not an uncommon microbe to contract, as the bacteria is resistant to both extremely hot and cold temperatures. Unfortunately, those who are infected do not immediately notice the symptoms, if there are any at all, because those with strong immune systems and who are considered to be relatively healthy will only be minimally affected.  For those who are healthy individuals, the symptoms include fever, muscle fatigue and achiness, nausea, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms. 

Those at higher risk of contracting a deadlier version of the monocytogenes are those whose immune systems have been weakened for any number of reasons. People such as pregnant women, infants, and the elderly are at a higher risk of more severe outcomes and prolonged sickness. Other problems can arise such as the infection spreading to the nervous system and causing problems with balance, headaches, confusion, stiffness of the neck, and convulsions. In cases that are even more serious, symptoms can spread to the brain with outcomes as alarming as paralysis, meningitis, or even death. 

Recalls are serious, and the FDA strongly advises not consuming these listed goods from Trader Joe’s. (I’m sure their supporters are faithful in offering their support during this rough season.)

For those of the customers who did end up eating these products, there are many deadlier pathogens. Most healthy people who become infected survive this food-borne disease after a few days of illness.