June 22, 2022

Consumer Reports Tests Frozen Produce For Pathogens

Consumer Reports tested 300 samples of frozen produce for pathogenic bacteria and found them to be free of pathogens. No harmful bacteria was found in the samples, according to their newly released report. But that’s not the whole story.

Consumer Reports Tests Frozen Produce For Safety

Consumer Reports researchers looked for E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella in eight frozen foods: berries, avocado, corn, mangoes, peaches, pineapple, spinach, and smoothie mixes. No bacteria that could make you sick were found in their samples. However, these findings do not meant that there is no risk from frozen produce.

How these items are processed could have an effect on their safety. Most are blanched or steamed before they are frozen. Unfortunately, this does not mean these products are completely safe to eat without further cooking.

Many people let toddlers snack on frozen veggies or use them in salads without cooking them first. This can be a mistake for a couple of reasons. These items can still be contaminated with pathogens that cause serious illness, including Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella. And very young children are more prone to serious complications from these infections.

A 2016 recall of more than 450 frozen produce items that were linked to a multistate Listeria monocytogenes outbreak proves this point. In 2017, the industry took steps to reduce the risk of Listeria contamination in their products, including sampling for the pathogen and introducing more ways to sanitize industrial freezing equipment.

But there have still been recalls of frozen fruits and vegetables for possible contamination with pathogens that ranged from Listeria monocytogenes and hepatitis A to norovirus in the past few years; the recent recall of Lidl frozen chopped spinach is a case in point. After all, produce is a raw agricultural product and can be contaminated in the field, during harvest, during transport, or during processing. The more a product is handled, the more possibilities for contamination occur.

You can protect your family from possible contamination in these products by following a few steps from the European Food Safety Authority. Just cook frozen produce thoroughly, follow package instructions before you eat them. Unfortunately, almost no one cooks frozen berries or other types of fruit before serving them. The FDA has instituted a program of sampling frozen berries to look for pathogens for exactly this reason. So stay up to date on FDA recalls to alert you to any potential problems.

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