September 1, 2014

Whole Foods Listeriosis Lawsuit: Outbreak Linked to Frescolina Ricotta Salata Grows

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just updated the multistate outbreak of listeriosis linked to imported Marte brand Frescolina Ricotta Salata cheese. The cheese was imported by Forever Cheese and sold at Whole Foods stores and other stores around the country. Now, 18 people in 12 states and the District of Columbia have been sickened with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes. Three people have died, and all 18 ill persons have been hospitalized.

Pritzker Olsen has filed the first lawsuit in response to this outbreak, on behalf of a person in Pennsylvania who became sick after eating several soft cheeses purchased at a Whole Foods market in Pittsburgh. Fred Pritzker, national food safety attorney, said, “there may be more contaminated cheeses on the market, since Whole Foods cut and repackaged the contaminated cheese, quite probably cross-contaminating other varieties that have been for sale.”

The number of patients in each state is: California (1), Colorado (1), District of Columbia (1), Maryland (3), Minnesota (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (3), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). The new cases are in New Jersey (2) and Pennsylvania (1). Six of the illnesses are related to a pregnancy. Two of the illnesses were diagnosed in newborns. The other 12 patients range in age from 30 to 87 years, with a median age of 75 years. Fifty-eight percent of the patients are female. One death was reported in Nebraska, New York, and Minnesota. One fetal loss was reported.

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Forever Cheese Inc. issued an expanded recall of all lots and production codes of cheese produced by Marte, the Italian cheese maker. The labeling of the recalled cheese after it was cut and repackaged has been inconsistent, so cheese that is contaminated may not include the words “Marte” or “Frescolina”. If you have purchased soft cheeses from a deli at Whole Foods or elsewhere, ask to see if it is part of this recall. Anyone with a weakened immune system, pregnant women, and older adults should always be cautious about eating soft cheeses.

If you have experienced the symptoms of listeriosis, including flu like symptoms, headache, fever, muscle aches, stiff neck, confusion, and loss of balance, see your physician immediately. Pregnant women usually only have a mild illness when infected with Listeria bacteria, but the infection can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.

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