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Woman blames listeria-contaminated baby spinach for her stillbirth

In a lawsuit, the expectant Philadelphia parents accuse a grocer and a produce company of being reckless, careless and negligent.

A pregnant woman said she lost her unborn baby after eating spinach contaminated with listeria, according to a lawsuit filed by the expectant parents against a produce company and others.

Days after being diagnosed with Covid-19 in December, Mecca Shabazz, 25, had Fresh Express baby spinach in a smoothie while she was quarantined at home, the suit states.

On Dec. 15, she went to the emergency department with bleeding and painful contractions, and physical exams indicated no fetal movement, according to the lawsuit. Shortly after, the fetus was confirmed dead, and Shabazz delivered the stillborn child that same day, the suit states.

An autopsy determined that the sole cause of death for the fetus was maternal-fetal listeriosis, according to the lawsuit, which was filed late last month in Philadelphia County.

On Dec. 20, Fresh Express announced a recall of salad products produced in a facility in Streamwood, Illinois, because of possible listeria monocytogenes.

Pregnant people and those older than 65 or with impaired immune systems are at risk of serious infection from listeria, according to Mayo Clinic.

The CDC states that pregnant people are ten times more at risk for listeria infection and that the bacteria is known to cause miscarriages and stillbirths.

Shabazz and Lateef Young, the parents of the unborn child, are devastated, their attorney Julianna Burdo said Wednesday.

“They were beyond excited. They had purchased a crib and blankets and had baby showers,” Burdo said. “They will never recover from this loss.

Shabazz and Young are seeking damages for personal injuries, pain and suffering, and wrongful death from the store where the produce was purchased, Fresh Express and Chiquita Brands International, of which Fresh Express is a subsidiary.

None of the defendants responded to requests for comment Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants were reckless, careless and negligent.

“The industry is so heavily regulated that these food processing and food manufacturing facilities only produce products that are safe for consumption,” Burdo said. “So the only way to have produced and disseminated a product that contains Listeria is to have violated and departed from these strict industry standards.”

At the time of the stillbirth, the unborn child had reached 30 weeks gestational age, according to Burdo. The 24-week mark typically indicates when a baby could survive outside the uterus.

“This baby could have been born the day before this spinach was consumed and survived and thrived,” Burdo said.

She said that her firm, Wapner Newman, “is dedicated to giving this unborn, full-term child a voice, and telling these companies who manufactured and distributed contaminated food that it must not be allowed, must not go unnoticed and must not happen to any other baby."