A woman 38 weeks pregnant was diagnosed with Listeria monocytogenes infection, and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services is now warning the public not to eat any cheese products produced by El Ranchero del Sur of South River, NJ.
Lab tests confirmed L. monocytogenes in a sample of the company’s Los Corrales Queso Fresco Fresh Cheese and Banana Leaf (code date 03/16/12), according to a NJDHSS news release Thursday. The pregnant woman’s Listeria infection was diagnosed March 2 at a New Brunswick hospital.
El Ranchero del Sur, based in South River, NJ, has agreed to recall its products and close its production plant. While the facility is inspected, all products and ingredients have been embargoed, state public health officials said.
According to the news alert, El Ranchero del Sur cheese products are found primarily in Mexican and Latin American grocery stores, restaurants, and other Hispanic food establishments under the name brands El Ranchero, Los Corrales, and Carnes Don Beto. The plant number 34-0013669 is marked on the label. All products are 14 ounces in weight, except for the Queso Hebra Oaxaca String Cheese ball, which is sold in 10 pound packages.
The state health department’s Food and Drug Safety Program is requesting that local health departments check to ensure that El Ranchero del Sur products are removed from retail food establishments in their area.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Listeria infection can be passed to an unborn baby through the placenta, even if the pregnant woman is not showing signs of illness. Listeriosis can cause premature labor and miscarriage and, if passed along to a newborn, may result in sepsis or meningitis and be fatal.
In 1985, in an outbreak of Listeria infection that sickened 142 people who had eaten commercially produced soft cheese mixed with unpasteurized milk, 93 of the victims were pregnant women or their offspring. Twenty fetuses and 10 newborns died in that outbreak.
The CDC advises pregnant women not to eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie and Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco, and Penela unless they have labels that clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk.