April 18, 2024

Are the Canadian and American Listeria Outbreaks One and the Same?

There are currently two Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks in the U.S. and Canada that were announced last week by the respective governments of those countries. There are a lot of similarities between the two outbreaks. So the question is: are the Canadian and American Listeria outbreaks the same?

Are the Canadian and American Listeria Outbreaks One and the Same?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the U.S. outbreak last Friday. As of August 23, 2019, 24 people are sick with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes. Illness onset dates are from July 20, 2017 to August 1, 2019. And as of August 23, 2019, there are seven cases of listeriosis in Canada. The illness onset dates for that country are between November 2017 and June 2019.

Here’s the crucial statement. The CDC says, “Whole genome sequencing showed that the type of Listeria making people sick in Canada is closely related genetically to the Listeria making people sick in the United States.” Both outbreaks began in 2017.

And there are similarities in products recalled for possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination in both countries. In the U.S., Tip Top Poultry recalled fully cooked diced and mechanically separated chicken products on August 20, 2019 for possible Listeria contamination. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency notified FSIS that a sample of this product tested positive for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria on August 17, 2019. There was no mention of any illnesses linked to this product in the USDA recall notice, but the notice also did not state that no illnesses are linked to the chicken.

And in Canada, there have been recalls of three brands of ready to eat poultry products for possible  Listeria monocytogenes contamination. They are Rosemount cooked diced chicken meat, recalled on August 18, 2019, and Reuven International Cooked Chicken and Sysco brand Natural Proportions cooked diced and shredded chicken, recalled on August 21, 2019.

These are serious illnesses. In Canada, six of the seven patients have been hospitalized. And in the U.S., 22 of the 24 patients have been hospitalized, and two people have died. The high hospitalization rate is typical for listeriosis patients.

We are waiting to see which, if any, products the CDC will link to the outbreak in the U.S. Meanwhile, the question still remains: are the Canadian and American Listeria outbreaks linked? Stay tuned.


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