Soft Cheese Listeria Outbreak Linked To Dozens of Illnesses, One Death

Health officials say a multistate listeria outbreak, which has caused at least one death and 24 illnesses in nine different states, appears to be caused by soft cheese products distribted by Karoun Dairies, Inc.

The FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) issued an update regarding the soft cheese listeria cases last week, indicating that the manufacturer issued a voluntary recall on September 16, and has ceased production of 15 types of soft cheese products due to concerns about contamination.

Among individuals impacted by the listeria food poisoning outbreak, 22 of the 24 individuals identified have been hospitalized due to the injury. Five of those illnesses were pregnancy related and one resulted in a fetal death. One other death has been attributed to the outbreak. California has the most illnesses, with 14 people impacted, but other illnesses have been reported in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Washington state.

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The CDC has detected five DNA fingerprints among the listeria cases, all of which are genetically closely related. The illnesses have been occurring since August 8, 2010, but were only recently linked to the soft cheese products when the FDA isolated Listeria monocytogenes from samples collected this month from Central Valley Cheese, Inc. The cheese and other cases were traced back to Karoun Dairies.

The Karoun Dairies, Inc. recall (PDF) affects soft cheeses sold in vacuum packed jars or pails under the brand names Karoun, Arz, Gopi, Queso Del Valle, Central Valley Creamery, and Yanni and were sold in weights varying from five ounces to 30 pounds. For a complete list of affected products, check the recall notice linked above.

Listerosis is a foodborne illness that can cause serious health consequences and death, especially for children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. The infection is considered by the FDA as one of the more dangerous foodborne illnesses and frequently results in hospitalizations and carries a 25% fatality rate.

Symptoms of listeria infections may include nausea, muscle ache, diarrhea, fever, and fatigue. In severe cases for the elderly and young children, the bacteria could spread through the bloodstream to the nervous system resulting in sometimes fatal infections. For pregnant women, listerosis can pose a risk of miscarriages, still births, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn.

Karoun Dairies, the FDA and CDC recommend that anyone who purchased the affected products dispose of them or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions can call Karoun Dairies at 1-866-272-9393.


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