Dr Manny's Notes

Dr. Manny: Listeria-tainted mangos may be a major problem for pregnant women



The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a recall this week of organic Tommy Atkins mangos, after a sample tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. The mangos are sold under the Purity Organic brand and have been shipped to retailers and distributors in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Jersey and Texas. They are labeled with the Price-Look Up (PLU) codes 94051 & 94959.

Though no illnesses have been reported, my biggest concern with this recall is that pregnant women could be affected. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listeria infections are most common among older adults, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. In the spring, we all tend to increase our fruit consumption as more produce options arrive in the grocery store, and pregnant women are always encouraged to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables – making the timing of this listeria outbreak very problematic.  

Although listeria cases are relatively rare among the general U.S. population – causing about 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths annually – it is still a great concern of mine. Recently, I treated a pregnant patient who had ingested sausages from her native country, only to find that they were contaminated with listeria. At 30 weeks gestation, her fetus became infected with the bacteria and ultimately died. 

Listeria is a bacteria commonly found in water and soil, which infects humans when it contaminates food. Typically, listeria contamination pops up in uncooked meats and vegetables or unpasteurized milk and cheeses. It can also be found in some cooked and processed foods.  Of course, if meats are cooked at the proper temperature and milk is pasteurized, this bacteria is killed.

Symptoms of a listeria infection can include headaches, fever, aches and pains, and vomiting. In pregnant women, the bacteria is capable of crossing the placental barrier, placing the fetus at risk for infection. In the first trimester, this can lead to a miscarriage. In the third trimester, listeria infection can lead to premature contractions or premature delivery – or worst of all, the fetus can become fully infected, ultimately leading to a still birth.

Many times, doctors are able to treat listeria with antibiotics when they spot it early. But the most important message I can give you is to be vigilant, especially when a recall has been issued. More importantly, pregnant women should stay away from uncooked meats and soft cheeses, or any homemade products that they suspect may not have been processed properly.

For more information on listeria, visit CDC.gov/listeria.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.