Deadly Listeria Outbreak Tied to Hogshead Cheese

A <"">Listeria outbreak last year, that killed two people in Louisiana and prompted a 500,000-pound processed meat recall, is making headlines again. The deadly Listeria outbreak is the featured topic in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publication, said The Shreveport Times.

According to The Sherveport Times, this is the first time Listeriosis has been connected to hog head cheese, a meat product made from the heads and feet of pigs.

For susceptible populations, infection with the
 Listeria pathogen can cause significant illness linked to the central nervous system, the developing fetus, and placenta. Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause Listeriosis, a potentially fatal foodborne Illness, that infects about 2,500 people in the U.S., killing 500.

Listeriosis symptoms are high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, nausea, abdominal cramps and pain, and diarrhea. Pregnant women are 20 times likelier to be infected and Listeriosis can kill fetuses, prompt premature births, can lead to hearing loss or brain damage in newborns, and can prompt neurological effects and cardio respiratory failure in adults.

Those who fell ill in last year’s outbreak were from Orleans, Jefferson, Tangipahoa, Terrebone, Ascension, St. John, and Lafayette parishes, said The Shreveport News, citing information received from the state health department.

The outbreak led to a recall of hog head cheese and sausage that was manufactured by Veron Foods in Prairieville. The Shreveport Times pointed out that this recall was the second recall in three years by Veron Foods over products that were contaminated with the dangerous, and sometimes deadly Listeria pathogen.

In 2007, Veron Foods recalled 290 pounds of head cheese products that were potentially contaminated with Listeria. Routine testing revealed the presence of Listeria; however, no reports of Listeriosis were received by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

After a significantly high number of Listeriosis cases were reported—a total of 14 from January to June in 2010, led state officials to investigate the outbreak, said The Shreveport Times. In the prior three years, Louisiana averaged about five cases in the same time frame, much less than last year’s 14.

Lab work showed that eight of 2010’s 14 cases in 2010 contained bacteria with the same characteristics. State public health sanitarians discovered that the head cheese was made by Veron Foods, said The Shreveport Times. Additional testing found Listeria in spicy head cheese packages that the sanitarians collected from groceries in those areas in which illnesses were reported.

“Products were voluntarily pulled, therefore there were minimal to no products seized at the retail level,” said Ken Pastorick, a spokesman for the state health and hospitals department, quoted The Shreveport Times

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