Listeria, S. aureus Prompts California Firm to Recall String Cheese

Surtex Foods Co. is recalling its Oaxaca string cheese over concerns it may be contaminated with <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/listeria">Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus aureus, said the Associated Press (AP). The firm, which is based in Los Angeles, California, said its “La Original” comes in a 17.63-ounce clear package, added the AP.

The product was distributed only in California and, to date, no illnesses have been reported, said the AP; however, it is important to note that food borne illnesses often take a number of days for symptoms to manifest.

Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause Listeriosis, a potentially fatal disease. While healthy people rarely contract Listeriosis, the infection can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Listeriosis is known to result in serious, sometimes fatal, infections in those with weakened immune systems, such as infants, the elderly, persons with HIV infection, and those undergoing chemotherapy.

In pregnant women, Listeriosis can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth of a baby suffering from the infection. Pregnant women are about 20 times likelier than others to be infected; listeriosis can kill fetuses, prompt premature births, and can lead to hearing loss or brain damage in newborns and neurological effects and cardio respiratory failure in adults. Listeria monocytogenes infects about 2,500 people in the U.S., killing 500.

Food contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), the bacterium responsible for producing toxins in foods, can cause gastrointestinal illness that usually begins one-to-six hours after eating contaminated food. The most common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. In more severe cases, headache, muscle cramping, and temporary changes in blood pressure and pulse rate may occur.

The illness is usually mild and most patients recover after one to three days; however, in a small minority of patients, the illness may be more severe. In these cases, some people, especially the very young and old, may require medical treatment for dehydration from vomiting and/or diarrhea.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food is typically contaminated with S. aureus through contact with food workers who carry the bacteria or through contaminated milk and cheeses. Because the toxin is salt tolerant, says the CDC, it thrives in salty foods, such as cheese. Importantly, Staphylococcal toxins are resistant to heat and cannot be destroyed by cooking. Foods at highest risk of contamination with S. aureus and its toxin production are those that are made by hand and require no cooking; for instance, cheese.

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