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Listeria in Florida: Which foods should I avoid eating?

A Sarasota-based ice cream and a brand of onions sold at Publix have been linked to Listeria.

TAMPA, Fla. — Before you fire up the grill this summer, it's a good idea to double-check the labels on your packages from the grocery store.

There's a Listeria outbreak linked to the Tampa Bay area, and people are being told to toss out any potentially contaminated food while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to investigate.

Based on recent recalls and advisories, here are which foods you should avoid. 

Big Olaf Creamery ice cream

On Saturday, the CDC said the Sarasota-based ice cream company has been linked to a Listeria outbreak. That means you should throw away any Big Olaf products you may have at home and clean any containers or utensils that may have touched the ice cream, according to health experts.

And if you see ice cream being sold at a Big Olaf retail store, that doesn't necessarily mean it's in the clear.

According to the CDC, Big Olaf is voluntarily contacting retail locations to recommend against selling their ice cream products until further notice. But, as company officer David Peachey explained, the stores are independently owned, so the manufacturer can't force them to shut down unless there is definitive proof the outbreak is linked to them. 

Little Bear brand Vidalia onions

The brand of sweet Vidalia onions sold at Publix stores across Florida has been recalled due to potential Listeria contamination.

Anyone who purchased Little Bear brand Vidalia sweet onions between June 22-24 should throw them away and can bring their receipt to the place of purchase for a refund, according to a release from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

The recalled onions were sold in bulk in the produce section of Publix and are marked with "PLU 4159" on the sticker.

As of June 30, no illnesses were reported in connection to this specific recall, but the company, A&M Farms, says it found Listeria on one of its pack lines.

Are there other foods to be worried about?

Listeria poses the biggest threat to pregnant people, elderly people and others with weakened immune systems, according to the FDA.

"Listeria is very much linked to fetal loss," Dr. Jill Roberts, an epidemiologist with USF Health, said. "If you're outside of those particular groups, your risk of Listeria is pretty darn low of being a serious disease. That said, you should be aware to avoid any kinds of contaminated products."

So, if you fall into one of those groups, or you just want to play it safe — the CDC has a list of foods that are more likely to contain Listeria. It includes:

  • queso fresco and other soft cheeses like Camembert and feta
  • raw sprouts
  • melons
  • hot dogs, cold cuts and pâtés 
  • smoked fish
  • raw (unpasteurized) milk 

You can learn more about Listeria prevention on the CDC website.

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