Certain soft cheeses contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes have caused one death and sickened 24 people in 9 different states since August 8th. Five of the illnesses occurred in pregnant women and one miscarriage was reported. More than half of the cases occurred in California, while sporadic cases were noted in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Washington.
Of 22 ill people for whom information is available, 18 consumed soft cheeses. Most victims were of Middle Eastern or Eastern European descent or shopped at Middle Eastern-style markets. Since symptoms of listeriosis may appear up to six weeks after consumption of Listeria-contaminated foods, health officials expect more victims.
The California-based cheese company, Karoun Dairies, Inc. has recalled and ended production of the following brand names: Karoun, Arz, Gopi, Queso Del Valle, Central Valley Creamery, and Yanni. Those brands of cheeses weigh anywhere from 5 ounces to 30 pounds and can be sold in vacuum-packs, jars, or pails.
Listeria is a bacterium that causes life-threatening illness. Healthy consumers generally do not get ill or they experience only mild symptoms. Pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and adults with weakened immune systems are most at risk of severe illness. For those who develop a severe illness, 94 percent require hospitalization, 16 percent die, and pregnant women can experience miscarriage, making it one of the most hazardous food-borne illnesses.
Symptoms of infection include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea. If you believe you have been exposed to Listeria and experience any of these symptoms, contact a physician immediately. Symptoms usually last 5-10 days, but complications are common. A severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions can be signs of life-threatening neurological complications that require immediate attention from a physician.
As Listeria can have lifelong or fatal consequences, consumers, restaurants, and retailers are advised not to eat, serve or sell the recalled cheeses.
You can read the latest CDC updates here.
You can read more information about the recalled products here.
More information about Listeria can be found here.