One death and at least four illnesses have been linked to a soft cheese that is potentially contaminated with the dangerous, sometimes deadly, Listeria monocytogenes pathogen.
All five people were hospitalized, including a pregnant woman who suffered a miscarriage after consuming the contaminated cheese, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel (JSOnline). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that the death occurred in Minnesota and the illnesses were reported in Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. All of the victims reported consuming a soft cheese and said that they either definitely or probably consumed one of the recalled Crave Brothers cheese prior to falling ill, officials said.
The multi-state outbreak has led to a recall of the three cheeses produced by Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Co., of Waterloo, Wisconsin. The cheese makers—four brothers—use milk from their herd of 1,500 Holstein cows and have won international and national awards, according to JSOnline. The recalled pasteurized soft cheeses were distributed nationwide through retail and food service outlets and by mail order and include:
- Les Frères (LF225 2/2.5#): Make date of 7-1-13 or prior, packaged in white plastic with a green and gold label.
- Petit Frère (PF88 8/8-ounce): Make date of 7-1-13 or prior, packaged in small round wooden boxes.
- Petit Frère with Truffles (PF88T 8/8-ounce): Make date of 7-1-13 or prior, packaged in small round wooden boxes.
The FDA is collaborating with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine the cause of the contamination. The FDA and Agriculture department are inspecting the Crave Brothers’ processing facility, according to JSOnline. Laboratory tests conducted by the Agriculture department on cheese samples from two retail stores revealed the presence of the same outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes. Additional testing and confirmation of test results are pending.
The grocery store chain Whole Foods is involved in the voluntary recall and has put signs in its stores to advise consumers. Whole Foods packages the recalled cheeses with Whole Foods labels, according to JSOnline. Kroger grocery stores and Roundy’s Supermarkets also carry the cheeses. Roundy’s owns Copps, Metro Market, Mariano’s, Rainbow, and Pick ‘n Save stores. A complete list of involved stores may be accessed at www.cravecheese.com.
Listeria infections are among the three deadliest food borne bacteria. “Listeria is one of the rarer food-borne illnesses, but it’s also one of the most severe,” Barbara Mahon, deputy chief of enteric diseases for the CDC’s epidemiology branch, told JSOnline.
The Listeria pathogen is unique because it flourishes in cold temperatures, such as what is found in refrigerated environments. Listeria also has an unusually long incubation period that can last up to 70 days, according to experts. Listeria also well tolerates heat and dry temperatures, which contributes to challenges in eradicating the pathogen and also adds length to expected reporting time frames.
Listeriosis is dangerous, causing serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals may experience short-term symptoms, such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In pregnant women, listeriosis can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth of a baby suffering from the infection. Pregnant women are about 20 times likelier than others to be infected; one-third of all Listeriosis cases occur during pregnancy.
Listeriosis can kill fetuses, prompt premature births, and lead to hearing loss or brain damage in newborns and neurological effects and cardio respiratory failure in adults.