Investigation of a Multistate Outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes Infections Linked to Frozen Vegetables Produced at Individually Quick-Frozen Vegetable Manufacturing Facilities

J Food Prot. 2023 Aug;86(8):100117. doi: 10.1016/j.jfp.2023.100117. Epub 2023 Jun 14.


In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state partners investigated nine Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to frozen vegetables. The investigation began with two environmental L. monocytogenes isolates recovered from Manufacturer A, primarily a processor of frozen onions, that were a match by whole genome sequencing (WGS) to eight clinical isolates and historical onion isolates with limited collection details. Epidemiologic information, product distribution, and laboratory evidence linked suspect food items, including products sourced from Manufacturer B, also a manufacturer of frozen vegetable/fruit products, with an additional illness. The environmental isolates were obtained during investigations at Manufacturers A and B. State and federal partners interviewed ill people, analyzed shopper card data, and collected household and retail samples. Nine ill persons between 2013 and 2016 were reported in four states. Of four ill people with information available, frozen vegetable consumption was reported by three, with shopper cards confirming purchases of Manufacturer B brands. Two identified outbreak strains of L. monocytogenes (Outbreak Strain 1 and Outbreak Strain 2) were a match to environmental isolates from Manufacturer A and/or isolates from frozen vegetables recovered from open and unopened product samples sourced from Manufacturer B; the investigation resulted in extensive voluntary recalls. The close genetic relationship between isolates helped investigators determine the source of the outbreak and take steps to protect public health. This is the first known multistate outbreak of listeriosis in the United States linked to frozen vegetables and highlights the significance of sampling and WGS analyses when there is limited epidemiologic information. Additionally, this investigation emphasizes the need for further research regarding food safety risks associated with frozen foods.

Keywords: Foodborne illness outbreaks; Individually quick-frozen vegetables; Listeria monocytogenes.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Food Microbiology
  • Foodborne Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Listeria monocytogenes*
  • Listeriosis* / epidemiology
  • Onions
  • United States
  • Vegetables