Listeria is a foodborne illness that causes fever, chills, vomiting, and headache. The illness can range from mild to severe, and in some cases be life threatening. That’s why the food industry needs to be extra careful to ensure that their products are listeria free and safe for consumers to eat. This year, the president of the U.S. Apple Association, Jim Bair, is making food safety his biggest concern, particularly in Washington.
Last year, there was a listeria outbreak in California apples. As a result, three people died and 34 were hospitalized. Blair told the Capital Press, “It was a wake-up call. Everyone is working hard and fast to take a fresh look at operations and do better where we can. It’s a real war effort at the moment as people realize this is a serious thing and we will never be able to say we won’t have another one but we can work hard to decrease the probability of another one.”
Listeria can be found in any environment. That’s why it is so hard to prevent. Even small levels are dangerous to humans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is creating a report that will hopefully shed light on better methods to prevent listeria, especially at large food processing centers.
The problem is complicated by the fact that the apple industry has come under fire for using too many pesticides and creating GMO apples. Certain chemicals can prevent listeria, but they cause other problems for consumers. Organically grown apples are at the highest risk of being infected with listeria.
There are thousands of apple growers in the U.S., with more than 400 companies in Washington D.C. alone. They are critical to the agricultural success of the U.S. and will play a major role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership if that ever goes through. That’s why preventing listeria and other foodborne illnesses is a bigger concern this year.