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Starbucks Recalls Breakfast Sandwiches for Fear of a Listeria Outbreak

MAR 14, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
Progressive Gourmet Inc. recalled English Muffin breakfast sandwiches from 250 Starbucks stores in Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, due to fear of contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

The Situation

Listeriosis, caused by L. monocytogenes bacteria, is a food-borne infection which mostly infects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and those with weak immune systems. The Wilmington, Massachusetts based company’s routine testing exposed the presence of the bacterium on a contact surface in the facility. The official announcement states that Starbucks (for which the company was manufacturing the product) decided to recall the 6-ounce packages of sausage, egg, and cheddar cheese English Muffin sandwiches “out of the abundance of caution because they have the potential to be contaminated with L. monocytogenes.” There have been no reported cases of listeria infection thus far.

Symptoms of Listeria

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that listeria is known to spread beyond the gastrointestinal tract to other regions of the body. The most common presentations of infection in older adults with immunodeficiencies are septicemia and meningitis. Pregnant women should be aware of fever, fatigue, aches, and other non-specific symptoms, as listeria infections during pregnancy may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn, such as meningitis.
The most common listeria symptoms in infected individuals who are not pregnant are:
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Loss of balance
  • Convulsion
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain

Prevention of Listeria

As with most food-borne diseases, the CDC recommends individuals properly wash or sanitize their hands, as well as raw fruits and vegetables (even if they will be cooked). Firm produce should be scrubbed thoroughly and the tool should be cleaned regularly. Uncooked meats should be separated from ready-to-eat foods, cooked foods, and fruits and vegetables.

All countertops, cutting boards, knives, and other utensils should be cleaned after handling. A refrigerator thermometer should be used to detect listeria in refrigerated and frozen foods (temperatures should be ≤ 40°F and the freezer should be ≤ 0°F).


The US Food and Drug Administration has teamed up with Progressive Gourmet and the Massachusetts Department of Health to investigate the source of contamination. Customers and vendors who have purchased the sandwiches (warehouses to which the product was distributed in Maryland, North Carolina, Texas and Louisiana) are urged to return them for a full refund, and to contact the company with any further questions.
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