The Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to imported Marte brand Frescolina ricotta salata cheese has grown. Now 15 people have been sickened with the outbreak strain of the bacteria in 12 states and the District of Columbia.
The case numbers by state 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), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). The one new case is from Washington state. All 15 people have been hospitalized. Three deaths have been reported.
Illness onset dates range from March 28, 2012 to August 30, 2012. Four of the ilnesses were related to a pregnancy. Listeriosis contributed to at least one of the deaths in Nebraska and New York, but did not contribute to the death in Minnesota. Two of the illnesses were diagnosed in newborns. The other 11 patients range in age from 30 years to 87 years. Sixty-four percent of the patients are female.
The symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes food poisoning include fever, muscle aches, and diarrhea. Almost everyone who contracts this infection has an invasive infection, meaning that the bacteria spread to the bloodstream. The hospitalization rate for listeriosis infections is very high. Pregnant women may have only a mild illness, but the infection can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection of the newborn.
The recalled cheese may have been referred to as Ricotta Frescolina Marte Tipo Toscanella and/or Ricotta Salata Soft Lot (T9425) as it was distributed. If you have purchased this cheese, do not eat it. Discard any remaining product or return it to the place of purchase.
Pritzker Olsen has filed the first lawsuit in this outbreak against Whole Foods on behalf of a patient from Pennsylvania. He ate several soft cheeses that were purchased at a Whole Foods market in Pittsburgh before becoming ill and was hospitalized with serious complications. This outbreak may be complicated by a series of cross-contaminations that may have occurred at several facilities that repackaged the cheeses.