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No listeria-tainted apples imported into Vietnam: watchdog

Thursday, January 22, 2015, 10:05 GMT+7
No listeria-tainted apples imported into Vietnam: watchdog
A stack of apples is seen in this photo illustration.

No contaminated apples or caramel apples being recalled in the U.S. have been found in Vietnam so far, the Vietnam Food Administration said Wednesday.

>> An audio version of the story is available here

No Granny Smith and Gala apples or caramel-coated apples have completed quality declaration at the VFA since January 2012, the food safety watchdog said on its website, citing findings from its review of the country’s fruit imports.

The products have poisoned or killed several people in the U.S. over the last month.

The announcement was released as an update of another VFA post on Tuesday, which said the administration would order a recall if the tainted apples have been imported into Vietnam.

The move came after the Vietnamese watchdog was warned about the contaminated products by the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN).

INFOSAN said four companies in the U.S. have recalled the contaminated fruits after the bacterium listeria monocytogenes, which causes listeriosis, was found in apples processed at a facility in Shafter, California.

Listeriosis infection primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and people with weakened immune symptoms, according to Reuters.

It can be fatal, with symptoms including fever, severe headache, muscle aches, confusion, convulsions, nausea and a stiff neck, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The VFA said it will keep consumers posted on the issue.

On January 6, Granny Smith and Gala apples were recalled by Bidart Bros after they were found linked to listeriosis infection.

Three companies, including Lochirco Fruit & Produce (Washington, Missouri), California Snack Foods (El Monte, California), and Sugar Daddy LTD (St. Louis, Missouri), later also recalled their caramel-coated apples for the same reason.

In the meantime, the Plant Protection Department, under the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said it would check the warehouses of around 20 major businesses that import U.S. fruit, according to newswire The Saigon Times Online.

The department has also reviewed imported fruits under its management and found none of its subsidiaries have ever licensed an import batch of American caramel-coated apples, departmental head Nguyen Xuan Hong was quoted as saying.

The fresh apples arrive from the U.S. in Vietnam via Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport, and Hai Phong and Saigon ports. These border gates have also reported that Bidart Bros exported no apples to Vietnam in 2014.

“The department is still reviewing and will ask Vietnamese importers of U.S. apples to check if their partners source the products from Bidart Bros,” Hong told the Ho Chi Minh City-based newswire.

As of January 10, 32 cases of listeriosis were detected in 11 states in the U.S., with 31 people hospitalized and seven killed, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ten illnesses were pregnancy-related (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant), with one resulting in a fetal loss, the CDC noted.

Twenty five, or 89 percent, of the 28 sick people interviewed by the CDC reported that they had eaten commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill.

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