The CDC has updated their investigation into the outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata cheese imported by Forever Cheese and processed by Whole Foods. Now 22 people are sick in 14 states. Four people have died, and 20 people have been or are hospitalized in the outbreak. One fetal loss was reported. The two new cases are from Virginia and Massachusetts.
Attorney Fred Pritzker, who is representing victims of this outbreak, said, “cross-contamination of other cheeses was very likely caused by cutting and repackaging the adulterated cheese. This outbreak has been widespread and the recalled cheese has contaminated an unknown number of other cheeses since they were cut with the same equipment.”
The case count by state is: California (3), Colorado (1), District of Columbia (1), Maryland (3), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (3), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (2), and Washington (1). The cheese was recalled in September and may have also been called Ricotta Frescolina Marte Tip Toscanella or Ricotta Salata Soft.
There is zero tolerance for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods such as cheeses. The bacteria can cause serious illness and death, and can cause miscarriages and stillbirth in pregnant women. Nine of these illnesses were related to a pregnancy, and three of the illnesses were diagnosed in newborns.
Dates when clinical specimens were collected form patients range from March 28, 2012 to October 6, 2012. One of the issues with this specific bacteria is that illness may not occur until 70 days after exposure. Since the cheese was on shelves in the middle of September, people can be infected and not know it until symptoms begin, perhaps as late as the end of November. If you have experienced the symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes food poisoning, including a flu-like fever, muscle aches, upset stomach, diarrhea, stiff neck, headache, loss of balance, convulsions, or confusion, see your doctor immediately. This infection can be treated with antibiotics.