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Three Deaths Counted in Listeria Outbreak Linked to Cheese

A new outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes has already killed three people, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said late Tuesday. The deaths are being blamed on cheese imported from Italy.

According to CDC, a total of 14 persons are infected with the outbreak strain in 11 states and the District of Columbia. All have been hospitalized, but three have died. CDC said Listeriosis contributed to at least one of the deaths.

The CDC report on the outbreak came 24 hours after Long Island-based Forever Cheese recalled one of its imported cheese brands for possible Listeria contamination.

The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: California (1), Colorado (1), District of Columbia (1), Maryland (3), Minnesota (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (1) and Virginia (1).

Forever Cheese, an importer of products from Italy, Spain and Portugal, Monday recalled the Ricotta Salata Frescolina brand from one specific production date for possible Listeria contamination.

It also said the problem was being investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Later Tuesday, Maryland state health officials said three people with Listeria illnesses were being treated in area hospitals.

The cheese was sold to distributors for retailers and restaurants in California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington between June 20, 2012 and August 9, 2012.

Neither Forever Cheese nor FDA has released a “consumer friendly” distribution list of establishments that received the bad cheese.

Consumers who purchased recalled Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese are advised not to eat it and to discard any remaining cheese. CDC said this is especially important for pregnant women, persons with weakened immune systems and older adults.

“When in doubt, throw it out,” advises the agency.

Listeriosis (infection with Listeria bacteria) can be very serious. The elderly, pregnant women and immune compromised individuals are especially at-risk for serious illness from the bacteria. As a result, Listeria outbreaks have the potential for fatality rates of up to 40 percent.

Listeriosis symptoms include fever and muscle aches, diarrhea and other stomach illness.

The incubation period before the onset of symptoms can take be up to two months.

The last major Listeria outbreak in the U.S. occurred last year when cantaloupes grown in southeastern Colorado sickened 147 in 28 states, causing 33 deaths. It was the most deadly food-related outbreak in a century.

© Food Safety News
  • Gustaaf van der Feltz

    Dear editor
    Again! how many deaths and sick people must there be, before foodproducers take measures against Listeria. These people should know that there is a perfect solution against listeria: Listex P100. Listex P100 is a FDA approved phage preparation made by Micreos, whiche does not alter properties of the food like taste, odor nor texture. It is inexpensive and easy to apply. On the internet you will find all details. Not using Listex P100 could be the end of the company and many deaths and sick people. I am writing to you because I am an ex patient of listeriosis. Luckily I survived. I am thankful for that and that’s why I write to you. I hope you will help me banning listeria by writing a story Listex P100. Many food producers use it in the USA, Canada, New Zealand Australia Switzerland and European Union. Listeria contamination is not necesary any more!
    Gustaaf van der Feltz ( g.van.der.feltz@ziggo.nl )

  • Kate Del Gatto

    I bought some of the ricotta salata from Whole Foods in Naples Florida in July and I just finished easting it yesterday. Apparently the incubation period is up to 2 months. Is there somewhere to go to be tested for this?? What should be done if you bought the cheese and then find out way later that it could be contaminated?

  • Listeria2012

    My wife developed a Listeria based infection in late July 2012 which created a large abscess in her brain. It is now nearly fourteen months later and except for a period of time in rehab settings she is still hospitalized in Rochester, New York