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Sacramento's organic peach and nectarine voluntary recall

A California packing company has voluntarily issued a nationwide recall for several conventional and organic varieties of stone fruits packed between June 1-12, 2014 because of possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been reported, says the July 20, 2014 Food Safety News article, "Food Recalls." Wawona Packing Co. of Cutler, California, issued a voluntary recall on Saturday of conventional and organic varieties of yellow peaches and nectarines, white peaches and nectarines, black plums and pluots (a plum/apricot hybrid). The peaches, nectarines, and similar fruit was sold in Sacramento in some supermarkets. Interestingly, the organic fruit was not local.

Organic and commercial fruit recall.
Wawona Packing Co. of Cutler, California.

The recalled fruit was distributed to retailers nationally. The question is why is there a dearth of organic fruit grown around the Sacramento region in the middle of the summer? Is the answer the drought? But visit a natural food store locally instead of any given supermarket and you'll find lots of organic fruit grown in California, some of which comes from local farms pretty close to Sacramento.

You can read the company's press release, a PDF file, "Voluntary Recall." It also contains a phone number you can call if you have any questions about the fruit you bought. The news release also lists the numbers on the stickers of the fruit. But if you've eaten it already, chances are you took off the sticker and discarded it when you washed the fruit. In Sacramento, some supermarkets and perhaps other food markets sold the organic fruits nicely displayed in their organic produce section. Ironically, in Sacramento, the organic varieties of these fruits were so meticulously and cleanly displayed in the organic produce section of some supermarkets and various other food stores where they had been distributed. Needless to say, I had been buying those organic fruits every few days between July 9, 2014 and the present, eating them the same day, and touting to family how luscious the organic stone fruit tasted and looked.

If you had a loyalty card, the supermarket may have sent an email to you telling you to bring in the product or the receipt for a refund and informing you of the voluntary recall

Listeria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The recalled products can be identified by a list and photographs. Anyone who has the recalled products in their possession should not consume them and should discard them. Consumers with questions may contact Wawona Packing's website and check out the company's July 20, 2014 press release.

The recalled products were shipped directly to retailers and wholesalers who resell the products and were shipped in both bags and boxes.

Wawona Packing has already notified its business customers and requested that they remove the recalled products from commerce. The company is voluntarily recalling these products in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, explains the Food Safety News article.

The recall was initiated based on internal company testing. The company stated that it shut down the implicated packing lines, retrofitted equipment, sanitized the facility and retested, and that subsequent daily test results have been negative.

After the Wawona recall was issued, Wegmans, a NY-based supermarket chain with stores in NY, PA, MA, MD, NJ and VA, announced Sunday July 20, 2014 that it was recalling several in-store baked desserts sold from June 1-20, 2014 because they may contain fresh peaches, nectarines and plums supplied by the CA packing company. These desserts include various cakes, pies, tarts and other pastries and are labeled with a store-printed scale label that will identify the product and UPC. A full list of the recalled items is available here.

Customers who purchased the recalled products from Wegmans between June 1 and July 20 should discard the product at home and visit the service desk and identify the product for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact Wegmans consumer affairs department toll free Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. EDT. The phone number is listed in the Food Safety News article, " "Food Recalls."

How loyalty cards could help stores reach customers who bought recalled food

Two days ago I received an email from the supermarket where I bought organic nectarines informing me there is a voluntary recall on those nectarines due to the possibility of listeria in them. Unfortunately I ate the several nectarines I bought two weeks ago and a week ago. No symptoms, though, at least none noticed out of the ordinary. I had eaten the nectarines the same day I bought them.

The email came to me on July 20, 2014. The specific nectarines with the possible listeria being recalled were sold between July 9 and July 19, 2014. And I had been buying them every few days during that time period and eating all of them. But at least the email came to me as a loyalty card holder, even if the information came more than a week after I ate the nectarines being voluntarily recalled.

The email asked me to return the nectarines for a refund or bring in my receipt. Unfortunately, I ate all the fruit being recalled and the receipt was shredded and put in the paper recycle can and picked up in the past few days. On the other hand the eight dollars for four nectarines I thought was rather expensive.

The moral of this story is that because of my loyalty card, the supermarket knew I purchased nectarines on the dates involved in the voluntary recall. It would have been great if the email came on the same day I purchased the produce, but in such cases the store may not have known, or if it had known and sent the email days before, I would not have thought to check my email from the supermarket thinking it may have been a coupon or other message not related to a food recall, since I've never bought recalled food before, and have been buying organic fruit and vegetables at that supermarket for many years.

How can loyalty cards help stores reach customers who bought recalled food? Back in 2006, the news release, "Federal law should require ID of stores that sold recalled food, study suggests," notes that if federal law is changed to require the identification of stores that have sold food that has been recalled, the question becomes how these stores can best notify their customers.

Some retailers voluntarily put fliers up warning consumers who may have purchased a recalled meat or poultry item and encouraging them to return the product if it hasn't already been consumed. What other steps could be taken? For example, retailers could use information collected from customer loyalty cards to notify consumers who have purchased recalled products.

They could do so by e-mail or simply by alerting them the next time customers use their cards. For customers who do not have such cards, retailers could collect information from other means, such as food stamp cards or even credit cards.That's what informed me of the recall, the email received because of my loyalty card, even though the email arrived long after I consumed the fruit, not on the same day the fruit was purchased, and noteworthy at the more costly price of organic fruit compared to the commercial varieties of similar fruit, which I avoided to avoid the pesticides, fungicides, or insecticides usually sprayed on commercial produce.

"There are problems with any of these approaches," according to that 2006 news release, "Federal law should require ID of stores that sold recalled food, study suggests." When consumers sign up for customer loyalty cards, they are usually promised that their information will not be used for any reason other than marketing purposes. Using data from food-stamp card purchases calls to mind "Big Brother" scenarios. Concerns about customer privacy must be dealt with before such measures are taken, the news release states.

Retailers may be concerned about getting a bad reputation by admitting they sold products that faced a recall. However, retailers should also consider the potential customer relations benefits by doing whatever they can to protect the health of their customers by informing them about those recalls. In the end, he believes, the benefits would outweigh any potential costs retailers would face. The point is that wanting privacy when I purchase food is great, but if the food is recalled, it was great to be emailed a notice to bring back the food or the receipt to get a refund. On the other hand, the food had been eaten the day I bought it, and the receipt long trashed.

That's a good reminder to keep receipts just in case something is recalled. You can never tell with food packaged that looks clean. Those organic nectarines looked so inviting, so clean, so well placed in the container, and each labeled with a sticker. Interestingly, the sticker number of each nectarine was listed in the letter from the supermarket. But, alas, who reads the sticker on a piece of fruit when the fruit is washed and eaten as soon as it's brought home? Looking on the bright side, there were no symptoms after eating the nectarines.