Under a recall of cheeses produced by Karoun Dairies, the FDA has “kind of” announced a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak. There is no information from the CDC, no case numbers, and no illness dates. The only word about the outbreak is “To date, no product has tested positive for Listeria but in view of the association with listeriosis cases Karoun Dairies Inc. is initiating a voluntary recall in the interest of protecting public health.” No photos have been released of any products or product labels.
This type of action is very frustrating for consumers. We know the brand names of the cheeses (Karoun, Arz, Gopi, Queso Del Valle, Central Valley Creamery, Gopi, and Yanni). We know the item name and the UPC codes and the use-by dates. We know that the cheeses were sold across the country.
But we don’t know the stores where the cheeses were sold, except for Publix and Sam’s Club, but that’s it. We don’t know who was sickened, or when they were sickened, or where they shopped or ate. We don’t know how long this outbreak has been going on. We don’t even know if this outbreak is linked to the cheese itself.
This lack of information can be dangerous to some people, for many reasons. First of all, symptoms of listeriosis can take up to 70 days to appear. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint which food was contaminated and made you sick after that amount of time has passed. The symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes food poisoning can mimic the flu, as well, so may be dismissed as that illness.
But the complications and consequences of this illness can be serious. The illness can progress into Listeria meningitis, which can be fatal or lead to permanent disability. Complications of meningitis include brain stem damage, seizures, loss of consciousness, compression of the cervical cord in the spine, brain abscess, and hydrocephalus.
Pregnant women can suffer miscarriages and stillbirth if they contract listeriosis. A woman’s child can be born with a Listeria monocytogenes infection, which can be fatal.
This risk is so serious and insidious that many physicians will give their pregnant patients prophylactic (preventative) doses of antibiotics if they simply ate a food recalled for Listeria monocytogenes contamination. This happened in the Bidart Brothers caramel apple Listeria outbreak and recall last year. And in pregnant women, this illness can be very mild, so it may be unnoticed or dismissed until disaster strikes.
The elderly, those with chronic illnesses and compromised immune systems, and children are at high risk for listeriosis and its attendant complications. For that reason, health experts recommend that people in those groups avoid products that may be contaminated with Listeria bacteria, including soft cheeses, deli meats, smoked salmon, raw sushi, and raw milk.
The symptoms of a Listeria monocytogenes food poisoning illness include flu-like fever and muscle aches, upset stomach, diarrhea, stiff neck, headache, loss of balance, and confusion. While the average length of time between exposure to the bacteria and symptom development is about three weeks, it can be up to 70 days.
Look at the long list of recalled products, along with UPC numbers and best-by dates, carefully. If you purchased and ate, or handled, any of the recalled cheeses, monitor yourself for these symptoms. If any symptoms do appear, see your doctor as soon as possible and tell him you ate this product that was recalled for Listeria monocytogenes contamination.
If you purchased this product, you also need to clean out your refrigerator with a mild bleach solution. Listeria bacteria can grow at refrigerator temperatures. Only bleach will kill Listeria. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after you handle the cheese and after you clean the fridge.