4 Scariest food recalls in 2011

Oct 21, 2011 at 12:56 p.m. ET

If you think Halloween is scary, perhaps you've forgotten about the many food recalls in 2011. Now that's some spooky stuff. From listeria laden cantaloupe to mussels containing paralytic shellfish toxins, we've rounded up four food recalls that will make you shudder.

Listeria contaminated cantaloupe

1Listeria contaminated cantaloupe

One of the most-reported food recalls this year resulted from a listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe from a Colorado farm. Even worse, well after the recall -- and after the last of the contaminated cantaloupe had expired -- the FDA warned that the listeria outbreak could continue for at least another month. That's because a person can remain infected for as long as two months before they begin to show symptoms, as listeria has a long incubation period. Yikes.

Symptoms of listeria -- fever and muscle aches, diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, neck stiffness, headache, loss of balance, confusion and convulsions -- are unpleasant enough, but the infection is especially dangerous for older people, babies and pregnant women. As of mid-October, 123 people had been infected, 25 people had died and one pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage. Scary is an understatement when it comes to the bad cantaloupe.

2Contaminated lettuce

Hot on the heels of the cantaloupe news, we learned that large quantities of lettuce had been recalled for -- can you guess? -- listeria contamination. People were already on edge after listeria contamination of cantaloupe affected people in 26 states. Then a California lettuce grower announced that it was recalling 33,000 pounds lettuce.

However, we were all able to exhale after we learned that the recall was issued because one bag tested positive for listeria, but nobody ever became sick from it. Of course, it hasn't been that long and we know that listeria can incubate for months...

3Mussels that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning

Our Canadian neighbors were recently told about a mussels recall. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency warned people not to eat certain British Columbian raw mussels because they could be infected with paralytic shellfish toxins.

Sound more frightening than ghosts and goblins? It is! While no actual infections were reported, paralytic shellfish toxins are natural toxins that can accumulate in certain shellfish such as scallops, oysters, clams, cockles and mussels. If a person eats the contaminated shellfish and develops Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, it's not good.

They can experience mild symptoms, such as tingling and numbness of the tongue and lips and/or hands and feet, as well as difficulty swallowing. In severe situations, symptoms can proceed to difficulty walking, muscle paralysis, respiratory paralysis and even death -- in as few as 12 hours.

4Salmonella laden ground turkey

People who choose ground turkey over ground beef to keep their meals healthier were met with unpleasant news when a meat company recalled 36 million pounds of turkey because of salmonella contamination. In August, consumers were warned not to eat a particular brand of turkey after one person died. In the end, over 75 were sickened by the infected meat.

Salmonella is scary -- did you know that 80 percent is resistant to one or more antibiotics? Health officials say that the bacteria is killed when meat is properly heated to at least 165 degrees, but the idea of chowing down on a turkey burger that contained the bug before cooking is, well, freaky.

Tell us

Did any food recalls from the past year frighten you more than a haunted house on Halloween?

Share with us in the comments section below!

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