MANILA, Philippines–An apple a day may not be good for you after all.
A health expert on Tuesday advised the public not to eat apples imported from California for possible contamination with listeria, a potentially fatal food-borne bacteria.
Dr. Willie Ong, a fellow of the Philippine Heart Association and a former consultant of the Department of Health, said that pending an advisory from the DOH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consumers should not sink their teeth into apples whose source they do not know.
Ong gave tips on how to keep safe from the tainted apples—which have been linked to a recent listeria outbreak in the United States—following a warning issued by the US FDA against Gala and Granny Smith apples imported by Bidart Brothers.
In its warning, the US FDA said the apples from the 2014 production were being recalled by the California-based supplier due to their association with the outbreak that has killed seven people so far. It said around 375,000 cartons of possibly contaminated apples were shipped to the Philippines.
Still in stores
“If you think you may have these apples in your refrigerator, throw them away,” Ong said. He noted the apples were still available in local markets despite the US FDA notice.
“If you cannot determine that the apples did not come from the Bidart Brothers plant in California, it is best to throw them away,” he said.
Since listeria can thrive in cold temperatures, it can also contaminate other food items in the refrigerator, Ong said.
To be safe, one must sanitize the walls and shelves of their refrigerator with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach added to a gallon of hot water, Ong said.
“You should sanitize the chopping boards, utensils and countertops that came in contact with the apples,” he said, as well as practice proper frequent hand-washing.
As for other imported products such as apple chips and apple juice, Ong said it would be wise to also stay away from them in the meantime even if there had been no explicit advisory on such products.
Listeriosis is a serious disease caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listerium monocytogenes. Symptoms include chills, fever, muscle ache sometimes preceded by diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
A listeria infection may have very serious effects on pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and people with impaired immune systems.