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In view of the listeria outbreak in the US, the CDC has warned people against eating, selling, or serving recalled or contaminated enoki mushrooms. Particularly, people who are pregnant, aged 65 or older, or have a weakened immune system, have been advised to avoid eating any raw enoki mushrooms, even if they are not recalled, as listeria is especially harmful for these groups of people. Listeria can infect healthy people too, but they rarely become seriously ill.
Eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes can cause a severe condition known as invasive listeriosis in high-risk people. According to the CDC, an estimated 1,600 people in the US get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die. Sometimes, Listeria can spread beyond the gut and infect other parts of the body, including bones, joints, and sites in the chest and abdomen. Older people and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop severe infections of the bloodstream (causing sepsis) or brain (causing meningitis or encephalitis) after Listeria infections.
Enoki mushrooms are popularly consumed in Japan, China and Korea, and they are mostly added in soups, hot pots, and stir-fried dishes. These types of mushrooms have white, long, thin stems, and are often sold in a bunch with roots in sealed plastic packets.
The US reported the first known Listeria outbreak linked to enoki mushrooms in 2020, which resulted in three recalls of enoki mushrooms imported from Korea. Since then, the country's health agencies including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been collecting and testing samples of enoki mushrooms. They have found the outbreak strains of Listeria in many samples, leading to more recalls of enoki mushrooms, including those distributed by Utopia Foods and Sun Hong Foods.
If you're pregnant, aged 65 or older, or have a weakened immune system due to certain medical conditions or treatments, you can get seriously ill, if infected by Listeria. Hence, the CDC especially advises these high-risk people to:
Symptoms associated with Listeria infection usually appear within 2 weeks after eating food contaminated with the bacteria. One may start showing the symptoms as early as the same day after consuming the contaminated food or as late as after 10 weeks.
Fever, muscle aches, and tiredness are the most common symptoms of Listeria infection. Along with these symptoms, people who are not pregnant may also get a headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or seizures.
In pregnant women, Listeria infection can cause pregnancy loss or premature birth, and serious illness or death in newborns.
For those who are 65 years or older or have a weakened immune system, Listeria infection often leads to hospitalization and sometimes death.
If you develop any of these symptoms after eating enoki mushrooms, seek medical help right away.