UPDATE: Canadian officials believe there is a link with a U.S. outbreak that has been traced to Dole Food Co. bagged salads and leafy greens, but they are waiting for final lab results, according to media reports. The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with federal and provincial public health partners to investigate an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections in five provinces. To date, the source of this outbreak has not been confirmed. However prepackaged leafy greens, salad blends, and salad kits are food items being investigated. Canada Public Health AgencyEpidemiological evidence has confirmed seven cases of Listeria monocytogenes across five provinces related to this outbreak: Ontario 3, Quebec 1, New Brunswick 1, Prince Edward Island 1 and Newfoundland and Labrador 1. All cases have been hospitalized, and one person has died, however it has not been determined if Listeria contributed to the cause of death, according to the public alert from the health agency. Onset of the illnesses began September 2015 and continued into early January. The majority of cases , 71 percent, are female, with an average age of 81 years. All cases have been hospitalized, and one person has died, however it has not been determined if Listeria contributed to the cause of death. Listeria is a type of bacteria that can be found in food, soil, plants, sewage and other places in nature, according to health officials. Eating food with Listeria on it can cause a serious disease, called listeriosis, in high-risk groups. People can get listeriosis by eating meat, fish, dairy products, plants or vegetables contaminated with Listeria. Some people face a higher risk of becoming sick with Listeria than others. Those who are at highest risk of serious illness include pregnant women and their unborn/newborn children, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems. Public health officials recommend high-risk individuals follow safe food handling practices and avoid high risk food items such as:

  • uncooked meat and vegetables including pre-packaged leafy greens;
  • unpasteurized raw milk and cheeses and other food made from unpasteurized milk;
  • ready-to-eat meats such as hot dogs, pâté and deli meats; and
  • refrigerated smoked seafood and fish.

Many people are exposed to Listeria, but only a few will actually develop listeriosis. Mild symptoms may include:

  • fever
  • muscle aches
  • nausea
  • diarrhea

Severe symptoms may include:

  • headache
  • poor coordination
  • seizures
  • neck stiffness

In the milder form of the disease, symptoms can start the following day after consuming a product with Listeria. For the more serious form of the disease, the incubation period is generally much longer; on average about 21 days, but can be up to 70 days after exposure.   (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)