A type of cheese linked to two cases of listeriosis has been recalled in New Zealand.

Officials said there have been two reports of illness which could be associated with the product but a concrete link has not been confirmed.

Gopals Sweets and Snacks recalled all batches and dates of its Gopala brand Paneer up to and including best before May 5, 2022.

The recalled product

Vincent Arbuckle, New Zealand Food Safety deputy director general, said Listeria’s long incubation period made it difficult to establish a definitive link between the sick people and the product.

“However, because of the detection of Listeria in specific batches, we support the recall, and advise anyone who has bought paneer recently to take the precaution of checking the product date mark to see if it is affected,” he said.

The two illnesses, one that is pregnancy associated, were reported in December 2021 and January 2022. Testing found samples from patients were closely related, which means it is likely their infections came from the same source. Isolates from the cases were of a rare sequence type in New Zealand. Both sick people consumed high-risk foods, including a common brand of paneer cheese.

Gopala brand Paneer is available in various weights between 300-grams and 1-kilogram in plastic packages. It was sold in supermarkets such as Foodstuffs and Countdown and ethnic grocery stores throughout New Zealand.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) advised consumers that affected product needs to be cooked thoroughly and should not be consumed raw. Officials added that if people were in any doubt, they should throw the item out or return it to the place of purchase.

New Zealand Food Safely and Gopals Sweet and Snacks are trying to establish how the contamination happened and what actions are required to prevent it from recurring.

About Listeria infections
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has eaten any recalled product and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical treatment and tell their doctors about the possible Listeria exposure.

Also, anyone who has eaten any of the recalled product should monitor themselves for symptoms during the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop.

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache, and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are required to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other illnesses.

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people such as cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are particularly at risk of serious illnesses, life-threatening infections, and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.

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