A deadly listeria outbreak linked to enoki mushrooms from Korea has sickened 36 people in 17 states with four reported deaths, according to federal health officials.
In a food safety alert Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said officials were investigating a multi-state listeria outbreak and advised that people at higher risk for listeria infections – pregnant women, adults 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems – avoid eating any enoki mushrooms labeled as “Product of Korea.”
The alert comes a day after Montebello, California-based Sun Hong Foods, Inc. recalled all enoki mushrooms imported from Korea after Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development found that a sample was positive for Listeria monocytogenes, according to the Food & Drug Administration.
Enoki mushrooms are white with long stems, small caps and usually sold in clusters. They are popular in East Asian cuisine and also known as enokitake, golden needle, futu, or lily mushrooms, the FDA notes.
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According to the CDC, the illnesses started on dates ranging from Nov. 23 to Dec. 13 and 30 hospitalizations have been reported with six pregnancy-associated cases. The four deaths were reported from California, Hawaii and New Jersey.
The CDC says listeria can cause different symptoms and with invasive listeriosis usually start one to four weeks after eating food contaminated with listeria but can start as late as 70 days after exposure.
Pregnant women typically experience fever and other flu-like symptoms, but that infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn. Symptoms in people who are not pregnant can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches, the CDC said.
According to the FDA, the recalled product was sold to distributors in California, Florida, Illinois, Oregon, and Texas and to J&L Supermarket, Jusgo Supermarket, ZTao Market, New Sang Supermarket and Galleria Market. The FDA notice says the “product could have been distributed further, reaching additional states and retail locations.”
California had the most cases with nine, followed by New York with four. Hawaii and Virginia each had three cases and Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts and Arizona had two cases apiece.
The nine states with one case: Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Tennessee.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko