February 27, 2024

Dairy Products are Most Common Source of Listeria Outbreaks

Dairy products were the most common source of Listeria outbreaks that occurred between 1998 and 2012, according to a new federal study by the Food Safety Analytics Collaboration of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The study was conducted to provide information that can be used to develop better food poisoning prevention measures.

Milking Cow Wet FloorOf the 952 outbreaks attributed to one pathogen during the 14-year study period, 24 were Listeria outbreaks. Dairy products were the source of half them. Turkey was the source of four; pork and sprouts each caused two; and beef, chicken, fruit and row crop vegetables each caused one. The fruit outbreak, the cantaloupe Listeria outbreak of 2011, sickened 147 people and killed 35.

Most of the Listeria outbreaks linked to dairy products were caused by soft cheeses, a pattern that has continued in each year after the study period as well. In January of this year, a Listeria outbreak in Washington linked to Queseria Bendita cheese sickened three people, killing one of them.

A recall for dairy products including  Queso Fresco, Panela, Requeson, Cotija fresh soft cheese products and Sour Cream, produced at the company’s Yakima plant was issued. The recalled products were distributed to Hispanic grocery stores in Washington and Oregon and sold from the company’s ion-site store in Yakima.

They were packaged with clear plastic wrappers or in plastic tub, and stamp coded with the best by date up to 4/16/2015. The products are refrigerated and have the shelf life of up to 90 days. Consumers who have any of these products should not  eat them.

In 2014, two deadly outbreaks were linked to soft cheeses. A three-state outbreak  announced in October was linked to Oasis cheeses. That outbreak killed one person and sickened two others. In March 2014, an outbreak linked to Roos Cheese sickened eight people in Maryland and California, killing one of them.

And in 2013, a Listeria outbreak linked to pasteurized cheese from Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Company in Wisconsin sickened six people.  One person died and one woman suffered a miscarriage.

Symptoms of listeriosis include high fever, stiff neck, severe headache, nausea, and diarrhea. Pregnant women may only have a mild flu-like illness but the illness can cause stillbirth and miscarriage.

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