AUG. 7–ATLANTA–Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin announced that Georgia Department of Agriculture food scientists have found some contamination in a brand of fresh bay leaves pulled from a store sample.
A sample of “Melissa’s Fresh Bay Leaves” was found to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a species of potentially dangerous bacteria. The fresh bay leaves are in ¾- ounce (21 g.) packages and are distributed by World Variety Produce, Inc. (Los Angeles, CA). They are sold in the produce section of grocery stores.
Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an uncommon but potentially serious disease. The most common manifestation of listeriosis is meningitis, which has symptoms of high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea. Listeriosis can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as serious and sometimes fatal infections to infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems such as persons with chronic disease, AIDS or HIV infection or taking chemotherapy for cancer.
A bay leaf is often cooked in stews and dried bean dishes to add flavor. Since bay leaves are not usually eaten directly or without cooking, there is a low chance of someone becoming ill from actually eating the product. However, there could be a danger of illness from handling the product or from cross-contamination.
“Our inspectors will be checking stores to make sure this batch of bay leaves is removed from shelves. The company has agreed to add a code number to future shipments. This will assist in determining the origin and distribution of this product in the future,” Irvin says.
The Georgia Agriculture Department’s Food Lab conducts tests on samples pulled routinely by department inspectors from stores all over Georgia. “At this point, we do not know how much may be in Georgia stores. The sample we tested came from a Wal-Mart store in Newnan. Anyone with concerns over the bay leaves may return them to the place of purchase for a refund,” Irvin adds.