- According to the lawsuit, the woman gave birth to a stillborn child after consuming listeria-contaminated spinach.
- Listeria can cause listeriosis which is more common and dangerous during pregnancy.
- About 22% of cases of listeriosis in pregnancy result in stillbirth or death of a newborn.
According to a new lawsuit, a Philadelphia woman who gave birth to a stillbirth says spinach, which she added to her cocktails a few days earlier, is to blame.
The spinach, produced by Fresh Express, was contaminated with Listeria, although the woman did not know it at the time, the lawsuit says.
Listeria, the bacterium that causes Listeriosis, is much more likely – and much more dangerous – to be pregnant and is a known cause of pregnancy loss, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The woman, identified by NBC News as 25-year-old Mecca Shabazz, is suing Fresh Express and a grocery store for “the wrongful death of an unborn child and the bodily harm and emotional stress of a mother-to-be,” the law firm’s press release says.
“In addition to the tragic loss of this child, we are struggling to raise public awareness that blindly rely on food manufacturers and distributors to provide clean, safe and uncontaminated food products,” attorney Julianna Merback Burdo, partner at Wapner Newman’s Catastrophic Injury Practitioner, said in a press release .
“Safety in the food chain must start with those who process, pack, transport and sell our food to us,” added Merback Burdo.
Shabazz went into quarantine at home with COVID-19 while consuming spinach
Shabazz, then 30 weeks pregnant, went to the hospital with flu-like symptoms on December 11, 2021. Doctors confirmed that the fetus was healthy and sent her home for quarantine.
While resting, her grandmother bought Fresh Express baby spinach from Fresh Grocer for Shabazz to be used in smoothies.
On December 15, Shabazz returned to the hospital with bleeding and painful cramps. There, the providers found no fetal movement or heartbeat, and Shabazz had a stillborn baby on the same day, the lawsuit said.
An autopsy confirmed that Listeria was the only cause of death.
Five days later Fresh Express announced its “preventive recall” on its green days due to the Listeria epidemic in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The recall included the little spinach the mother was eating, according to the suit.
The baby would be Shabazz’s first and her husband. “This baby may have been born the day before consuming the spinach, survive and thrive,” Burdo told NBC.
Fresh Express and its parent company Chiquita Brands International did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Listeria is dangerous in pregnancy
Listeria is a “big problem in pregnancy” and a known cause of stillbirths, Dr. Stephanie Ros, a Florida gynecologist and maternal and fetal medicine specialist, told Insider.
Therefore, pregnant women are advised to stay away from foods that are more prone to it, such as cold cuts, soft cheese, and raw sprouts. Spinach is not a food normally recommended for pregnant women; in fact, it is encouraged as an excellent source of folate that can help prevent miscarriage.
While healthy people who accidentally eat listeria-contaminated foods don’t usually get sick, people with a weakened immune system, including pregnant women, are at a higher risk of and become seriously ill with listeriosis, according to the Society for Maternal- Fetal Medicine.
Pregnant women, in particular, are 20 times more likely to contract infection than healthy, non-pregnant adults, and approximately 17% of pregnant patients develop listeriosis.
The infection can spread to the fetus and can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, the organization said.
Newborns with listeriosis who survive labor may suffer from respiratory problems, fever, rash, lethargy and even death.
According to the ACOG, pregnant women with listeriosis with symptoms including fever should be treated with intravenous antibiotics.