Three deaths have been reported in connection with the Listeria outbreak linked to Frescolina brand Ricotta Salata that has sickened 14 people in 11 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All of those who contracted the infection have been hospitalized.
By state the case counts are as follows: California (1), Colorado (1), District of Columbia (1), Maryland (3), Minnesota (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (1), and Virginia (1). Illnesses were diagnosed from March 28, 2012 to August 30, 2012. Pregnant women are especially at risk with Listeria which can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects and premature delivery.
Four of the illnesses in this outbreak were related to a pregnancy; two of these were diagnosed in newborns. No miscarriages or stillbirths have been reported. The other case patients range in age from 56 to 87. The median age is 79. The three deaths reported were in Minnesota, Nebraska, and New York. Listeriosis contributed to at least one of the deaths in Nebraska and New York, but did not contribute to the death in Minnesota.
Six of the case patients could provide information about the packaging of cheeses they reported consuming. All of them said the cheese that had been cut and repackaged at a retail location. No single cheese was reported by the majority of those who became ill. This suggests that cross-contamination of other cheeses through cutting boards and utensils may be a factor.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted a recall of the cheese, made by Forever Cheese of Long Island City, NY, September 10. Forever Foods is a 14-year-old specialty foods company whose products include cheeses, cured meats, jams, honeys and olive oil imported form Italy, Spain, Portugal and Croatia.
The cheese under recall has a four-month shelf life. Consumers who have purchased this cheese should not eat it. Symptoms of a Listeria infection include fever and muscle aches. Sometimes there can also be nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stiffness, and headache. Anyone who has eaten this cheese and develops these symptoms should contact a health care provider.