The Listeria outbreak linked to soft cheeses produced by Karoun Dairies Inc. of San Fernando, California has ended after killing three people, sickening 27 others and causing one miscarriage. However, because some consumers may still have the recalled cheese in their refrigerators, health officials are worried that others may become sick.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U. S. Food and Drug Administration worked together on the investigation of the outbreak. Together they used DNA testing to identify five rare outbreak strains that sickened 30 people in 10 states over the course of five years. The most recent illnesses were reported this summer.
By state the case count was as follows: California (18), Colorado (1), Illinois (2), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (1), New York (2), Ohio (1), Tennessee (1), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). There were two fatalities in California and one in Ohio.
Twenty eight of the case patients were hospitalized. Six of the illnesses were pregnancy related. There was one miscarriage.
The case patients in this outbreak range in age from less than 1 year to 92. The median age is 73. Seventy percent of ill people were female. Twenty of 30 people with available information were of Middle Eastern or Eastern European descent or shopped at Middle Eastern or Eastern European-style markets.
Most of them reported eating Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Mediterranean, or Mexican-style cheeses, including ani, feta Middle Eastern-style string cheese, nabulsi or village cheese before they became ill. Brands distributed by Karoun were mentioned specifically.
A recall was issued on September 16 for the cheeses which were vacuum packed, in jars or in pails under the brands: Karoun, Arz, Gopi, Queso Del Valle, Central Valley Creamery, Gopi, and Yanni. They were sold in varying weights vary from 5 ounces to 30 pounds. They were distributed to nationwide to grocery stores and food service accounts. A complete list of retailers that sold the cheeses was not made available but two stores that carried them were Publix and Sam’s Club.
The cheeses were made for Karoun Dairies at Central Valley Cheese, Inc. manufacturing facility in Turlock, California. FDA investigators found Listeria closely related to the outbreak strains at the Central Valley Cheese, establishing an epidemiologic link.
Consumers who still have this cheese at home should not eat it as Listeria causes serious illness and death. Symptoms of a Listeria infection include high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Those at high risk of Listeria infections are young children, seniors, those with compromised immune systems and pregnant women. Among pregnant women, Listeria can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and infections in newborns.