This Massive Recall Includes Frozen Food You Probably Have in Your Freezer

May 15th 2016

Aron Macarow

A small recall of frozen food that's been in effect since April just got a whole lot bigger.

CRF Frozen Foods, a Washington-based manufacturer, just expanded a voluntary product recall to nearly 360 frozen fruit and vegetable products sold under 42 separate brand names. The recall includes a massive variety of freezer-aisle fruit and veggies — from butternut squash to stir fry packages to kale — all of which the company fears may carry listeria.

Worse, the recall covers anything that the company has ever made in its Pasco facility, going all the way back to May 2014. That's two years of produce and means that "sell-by" dates from April 2016 through April 2018 are affected.

But the most terrible news of all? If you're a Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or Costco shopper like me, you'll recognize many of their organic brands on the list of potentially contaminated products, such as Trader Joe's Organic Peas and an extensive array of Columbia River Organics frozen foodstuffs.

So far, two people have died as a result of the contamination, and three different states have seen people hospitalized for listeria. Other cases of the bacterial infection are under investigation.

"Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence available at this time indicates that frozen vegetables produced by CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Wash., and sold under various brand names are one likely source of illness in this outbreak," according to a release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency referred to the case as a "complex, ongoing investigation."

Should you worry?

For most of you, a listeria infection is far from deadly and will only lead to the usual stomach-bug symptoms: fever, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain. That's if it leads to anything at all. Some of you may eat food contaminated with the bacteria and not get sick.

But if you have a compromised immune system, the CDC warned, the infection could be lethal. Listeria causes about 260 deaths annually in the United States. This means if you're pregnant, elderly, a small child, or already ill, you should definitely stay away from the products on the recall list provided by CRF Frozen Foods. (You probably shouldn't eat any of the recalled products no matter who you are. If you must, heating the food to more than 165 degrees Fahrenheit should kill the bacteria.)

Critics say the recall is a symptom of a larger problem.

People on Twitter and Facebook have begun to wonder if the latest recall update signals a larger issue with Trader Joe's, a California-based national grocery retailer.

In an action unrelated to the frozen food recall, Trader Joe's issued a separate notice on May 4 pulling its Broccoli Slaw and Kale Salad with White Chicken Meat for listeria concerns in four states. Only a few days later, on May 10, the grocery chain recalled a different salad, citing a possible salmonella contamination.

See the full list of recent recalls on the Food and Drug Administration website, which includes multiple Trader Joe's brand-name products, as well as the full list of CRF Frozen Foods items that have been recalled here