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Listeria Blog

Surveillance & Analysis on Listeria News & Outbreaks

Multi-state listeriosis outbreak includes Washington

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) is working with FDA and public health officials in several states to investigate an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples. The caramel apples were bought at supermarkets in single or 3 pack plastic clamshell packaging. There is no specific product or company linked to the outbreak at this time, and therefore there is no food recall yet.

To date, there have been 29 illness cases reported from 10 states, including 26 hospitalizations and 5 deaths. There has been one associated illness case in WA (Thurston County). For additional details about the multistate listeriosis outbreak,  see the following link:

http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/caramel-apples-12-14/index.html

CDC is recommending the public not to eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples at this time. We concur with this recommendation. For additional guidance from DOH, see our newsroom update at: http://www.doh.wa.gov/Newsroom.

Caramel Apple Listeria Outbreak in Arizona (4), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1) and Wisconsin (2)

As of December 18, 2014, a total of 28 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 10 states.  Arizona (4), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1) and Wisconsin (2). 26 ill people have been hospitalized. Among the 26 people hospitalized, five deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to at least four of these deaths.  Nine illnesses were pregnancy-related (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant).  Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) were among otherwise healthy children aged 5–15 years.

The information CDC has at this time indicates that commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be contaminated with Listeria. Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness. In interviews, ill persons answered questions about foods consumed and other exposures in the month before becoming ill.   At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy. Although limited information is currently available about the specific brand(s) of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples consumed, the finding that most of the ill people reported consuming these apples suggests that these Listeria infections are likely related to commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples. Investigators are rapidly working to determine specific brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.

Out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that U.S. consumers not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided. These products could have a shelf life of more than one month.

Caramel Apples from Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike’s Discount Foods Linked to Listeria Illnesses and Deaths in Minnesota

Two Deaths confirmed.

The Minnesota Departments of Health and Agriculture are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis linked to eating caramel apples.

Four people in Minnesota have become ill as part of this outbreak. All were adults ages 59 to 90 years. They became ill in late October and November. All were hospitalized and two died.

Health officials are warning consumers who may have purchased any pre-packaged, commercially-produced caramel apples, including caramel apples with other toppings such as nuts, chocolate, and sprinkles, to not eat them until more information from the investigation becomes available.

Minnesota cases purchased caramel apples from Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike’s Discount Foods, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples. These two brands are no longer available for purchase at retail locations; however, health officials are concerned that persons who purchased them may still have them in their homes. The investigation is evolving, and other caramel apple brands and locations may also be impacted. Minnesota officials are working with national partners to determine the scope of products impacted. Consumers should not eat any brands of commercially-produced pre-packaged caramel apples until additional information is available. At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not pre-packaged.

Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease affects primarily older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and persons with weakened immune systems. On average, seven cases of listeriosis are reported in Minnesota each year. Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn. Symptoms begin from 3 to 70 days after consuming the bacteria.

Anyone who believes they may have become ill with listeriosis should contact their health care provider.

Sheep Milk and Cow’s Milk Cheese Recalled

Bleating Heart Cheese (BHC) is conducting a voluntary recall of a few of its sheep milk and cow’s milk cheese produced in late May, late June and early July of 2014, based on sampling by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that found the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in at least one sample of the following cheeses. At this time, no illnesses have been reported, but to reduce possible health risks and ensure that all suspect product is removed from the marketplace, BHC is initiating this voluntary recall in cooperation with the California Departments of Food & Agriculture and Public Health.

  1. “Ewelicious Blue” – natural rind, aged 2 – 3 months, identifying code 14-0618 on the bottom side of the label
  2. “Fat Bottom Girl” – natural rind, aged 2 – 3 months, identifying code 14-0702 on the bottom side of the label
  3. “Goldette Tommette” – natural rind, aged 2 – 3 months, identifying code 14-0527 on the bottom side of the label

These specific cheeses and lot numbers were distributed or sold beginning on October, 2014 to distributors servicing the San Francisco Bay area retail food shops, restaurants and stores. Anyone that has distributed the cheese identified above need to immediately notify their customers of the voluntary recall and instruct them to return any affected cheese to the distributor for a full refund. The cost of the returned cheese will be covered by Bleating Heart Cheese, upon proof of purchase. Any of the above cheese still in a distributor’s inventory needs to isolated/quarantined and prepared for return to Bleating Heart Cheese, which will provide a full refund upon receipt of the cheese and verification of its identity.

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, pregnant women and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and fetal infection among pregnant women.

Listeria Recall – Fresh Curd

Global Garlic Inc. is recalling De Mi Pais products – Cuajada Fresca (Fresh Curd) and Cuajada Olanchana (Fresh Curd) – due to possible contamination with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.

The recall was implemented after product sampling at the manufacturing company revealed the presence of bacteria in the finished products.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism that can cause food-borne illness in a person who consumes food item contaminated with it. Symptoms of infection may include fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. The illness primarily impacts pregnant women and adults with weakened immune systems.

The recalled products were distributed in Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, and North Carolina from April 1st through October 14, 2014 to distributors and retail stores. The labels of both the affected products sport the same UPC code of 896211002380 and have the Best by dates of 07/01/14 through 12/31/14.

Henry’s Farm Inc. is recalling their soybean sprouts due to a possible Listeria health risk

Food safety specialists from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services have warned consumers not to eat Soybean Sprouts from Henry’s Farm Inc. of Woodford, Va.

The company is recalling all packages of Soybean Sprouts because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections to individuals with weakened immune systems.

Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The following products are being recalled by the firm:
1.    All clear, 1 lb packages of Natto Soybean Sprouts. These products are labeled as produced by Henry’s Farm Inc. The packages were not coded.
2.    All clear, 2 lb packages of Bean Sprouts. These products are labeled as distributed by Rhee Bros. Inc. Columbia, Md. The packages were not coded.
3.    All bulk (approximately 10 lb) black plastic bags of Soybean Sprouts. These products are labeled as produced by Henry’s Farm Inc. The packages were not coded.

These items were primarily distributed to Asian specialty grocery stores in Virginia and Maryland.

The contamination was discovered after sampling by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Food Safety & Security Program. Subsequent analysis by the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in the products. No illness has been reported to date.

Beef Balls Recalled Over Listeria

Nha Trang Deli is recalling Beef Balls from the Canadian marketplace due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

Consumers should not eat the recalled product which was sold in 454 gram packages with Best Before Dates from 14-11-27 to 14-12-05 and a UPC code of 6 20937 00001 2

Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness. Pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild, flu-like symptoms, the infection can lead to premature delivery, infection of the newborn or even stillbirth. In severe cases of illness, people may die.

This recall was triggered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

Wholesome Soy Products Bean Sprouts Tied to Listeria Deaths and Illnesses in Michigan and Illinois

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported tonight than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isolated Listeria monocytogenes from mung bean sprouts and sprout irrigation water samples obtained during a routine assignment on August 13, 2014, at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. Based on this finding, FDA conducted an inspection of the facility from August 12, 2014, through September 3, 2014, and isolated Listeria monocytogenes from 25 environmental swabs obtained during the inspection. FDA also issued a report with 12 inspectional observations, citing the firm for numerous unsanitary conditions and poor equipment maintenance.

On August 28, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. agreed to conduct a voluntary recall of mung bean sprouts and notified customers by telephone. Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. ceased production of sprouts on August 28, 2014, and resumed production on September 15, 2014 after Listeria monocytogenes was not identified in finished product. From October 7, 2014, to October 31, 2014, FDA re-inspected the facility and identified Listeria monocytogenes in nine environmental swabs. FDA investigators issued another report to the firm, noting 12 inspectional observations involving unsanitary conditions and poor equipment maintenance. Nine of these observations had persisted from the previous inspection.

On October 14, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. ceased production of all products except mung bean and soy bean sprouts. FDA is working with the company to ensure that they do not produce sprouts until FDA has adequate assurances that this persistent and dangerous strain of Listeria monocytogenes is sufficiently controlled. Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is working to embargo all product at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. and the other wholesalers that presently have product. In addition, IDPH has asked local health departments to contact facilities in their jurisdictions that have received the product to have the facilities either hold the product or destroy per the CDC recommendations.

FDA performed pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS) on the isolates from mung bean sprouts and environmental samples from Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. to further characterize the Listeria isolates. Compared with PFGE, WGS provides a clearer distinction of genetic differences among Listeria isolates (strains that are highly related by WGS are more likely to have a common source).

Public health investigators used PFGE and WGS to identify cases of illness that were caused by highly related strains and therefore possibly related to products made at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. This included data from PulseNet, the national subtyping network of state and local public health laboratories, CDC, and federal food regulatory laboratories that perform molecular surveillance of foodborne infections.

Whole-genome sequences of Listeria strains isolated from five ill people were found to be highly related to sequences of the Listeria strain isolated from mung bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. These ill people have been reported from two states: Illinois (4) and Michigan (1).  They became ill from June through August 2014. All five people were hospitalized, and two deaths were reported. Two of the five people were interviewed, and both reported consuming bean sprouts in the month before becoming ill.

The high degree of genetic similarity between isolates from ill people and from mung bean sprouts and environmental samples collected at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. shows that the food was contaminated with a strain of Listeria monocytogenes that can cause serious illness. Although limited information is available about the specific sprout products that the ill people consumed, the whole genome sequencing findings, together with the sprout consumption history of two patients and inspection findings at the firm, suggest that these illnesses could be related to products from Wholesome Soy Products, Inc.

CDC, the states involved, and FDA continue to work closely on this ongoing investigation, and new information will be provided when available.

Oasis Brands Cheese Linked to Listeria Illnesses in New York, Tennessee and Texas

The CDC reports that whole-genome sequences of the Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from recalled quesito casero cheese produced by Oasis Brands, Inc. were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from one person who became ill in September 2013 and two persons who became ill in June and August 2014.

These three ill persons were reported from three states: New York (1), Tennessee (1), and Texas (1).

All ill persons were hospitalized. One death was reported in Tennessee. One illness was related to a pregnancy and was diagnosed in a newborn.

All ill persons were reported to be of Hispanic ethnicity and reported consuming Hispanic-style soft cheese. The two persons who were able to answer questions about specific varieties of Hispanic-style soft cheeses reported consuming quesito casero, though neither could remember the brand.

Several recalls of cheese and dairy products produced by Oasis Brands, Inc. due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination have been announced by FDA.

On August 4, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. voluntarily recalled quesito casero (fresh curd) due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination after the pathogen was isolated from quesito casero produced by this firm.

On October 6, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. recalled cuajada en hoja (fresh curd) after U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isolated Listeria monocytogenes from environmental samples collected from the production facility.

On October 16, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. recalled various cheese and dairy products sold under the Lacteos Santa Martha brand.

Marte brand Frescolina ricotta salata cheese Listeria Outbreak Lawsuit – Multistate (2012)

Marler Clark filed a lawsuit against importer Forever Cheese and Peterson Company, a Washington state cheese distributor, on September 24, 2012. The lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court in Seattle on behalf of a Seattle woman who was hospitalized for 2 weeks after becoming ill with a Listeria infection she contracted through eating Marte brand Frescolina ricotta salata cheese. The firm filed a second lawsuit on behalf of a California couple whose baby was born prematurely and died after suffering a Listeria infection he contracted from his mother, who had eaten the Listeria-contaminated ricotta salata cheese.

In the fall of 2012 the CDC collaborated with public health and regulatory officials in several states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis).  Joint investigation efforts indicated that ricotta salata cheese was the likely source.

Public health investigators used DNA “fingerprints” of Listeria obtained through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE, to identify cases of illness that were part of this outbreak.  They used data from PulseNet, the national subtyping network made up of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories that performs molecular surveillance of foodborne infections.

A total of 22 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes were reported from 13 states and the District of Columbia.  The number of ill people identified in each location was as follows:  California (3), Colorado (1), District of Columbia (1), Maryland (3), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (3), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (2), and Washington (1).

Among persons for whom information is available, dates that illness was diagnosed ranged from March 28, 2012 to October 6, 2012.  Twenty ill persons were hospitalized.  Nine of the illnesses were related to a pregnancy; three of these were diagnosed in newborns.  The other 13 ill persons ranged in age from 30 years to 87 years, with a median age of 77 years, and 54% were female.  Four deaths were reported, one each from Minnesota, New York, Nebraska, and California.  In Nebraska and California, public health officials determined that the deaths were related to listeriosis.  In Minnesota and New York, public health officials did not report listeriosis as a cause of death because it was not listed as such on the death certificates.  One fetal loss also was reported.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by officials in local, state, and federal public health, agriculture, and regulatory agencies indicated that Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata cheese imported from Italy and distributed by Forever Cheese, Inc. was the likely source of this outbreak of listeriosis.  FDA isolated the outbreak strain of Listeria from a sample of uncut Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata cheese, which was imported from Italy and distributed by Forever Cheese, Inc.

Listeria:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.

If you or a family member became ill with a Listeria infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Listeria attorneys for a free case evaluation.