April 4, 2020

Crave Brothers Listeria Cheese Outbreak Exemplifies Who is at Risk

Whole-Foods-Les-Freres-ListeraThe deputy chief of enteric diseases for the CDC’s epidemiology branch, Barbara Mahon, was recently quoted as saying that Listeria is one of the rarer food-borne illnesses, but it’s also one of the most severe. Her statement is borne out in the current  soft cheese Listeria outbreak associated with Crave Brothers Les Freres cheese sold at Whole Foods, other large retail chains and restaurants in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Another truism reflected in the outbreak is that pregnant women, newborns and older adults with weakened immune systems are most at risk for contracting listeriosis.

According to the cheese recall and related food poisoning announcement by the CDC, one person from Minnesota has died, along with an unborn baby in another state. The pregnant mother and all other victims of the latest U.S. Listeria outbreak were hospitalized and the two people from Minnesota who were sickened early on were both senior citizens. Laboratory tests conducted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on samples of Les Frères and Petit Frère with Truffles cheeses made by Crave Brothers from two retail stores indicate the presence of the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes. Further testing and confirmation of the results are pending, the CDC said.

Listeria attorney Fred Pritzker said he has been contacted by one of the families of the victims and currently represents a cheese Listeria case patient from a similar outbreak last year, also involving retail distribution and packaging by Whole Foods.

“To say Listeria is a nasty bug is an understatement,” Pritzker told Food Poisoning Bulletin. “We see it over and over again and it breaks your heart because these outbreaks are preventable.”

Public health officials curtailed the outbreak with a quick investigation that led to Les Freres cheese recalls by Crave Brothers on July 3 and Whole Foods on July 5. So far, A total of five persons infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from four states: Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Minnesota (2), and Ohio (1). Even if the recall was 100 percent effective in alerting consumers of the cheese, it’s possible more cases could crop up. That’s because the onset of Listeria symptoms can take up to two months to develop after eating food contaminated with the pathogen.

Among persons for whom information is available from the CDC, dates that illness was diagnosed range from May 20, 2013 to June 17, 2013.

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