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Listeria Outbreak Leads to Recall of Cheesewich Snack

Health + Wellness
More foods are being recalled due to an outbreak of listeriosis linked to eggs. USDA / Healthline

By Julia Ries

  • A multistate outbreak of listeriosis has led to seven people being infected.
  • Now products containing hard-boiled eggs have been voluntarily recalled over concerns they're related to the outbreak.
  • The bacterium Listeria monocytogenes causes the illness. It can cause serious infections, especially in people who have compromised immune systems.

Hard-boiled egg products contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes have caused a multistate outbreak, sickening seven people. Four have been hospitalized, and one has died.

The eggs, which were produced by the manufacturer Almark Foods, have since been voluntarily recalled after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined the food items may be associated to the outbreak.

Almark has also recalled all other food products that were packaged at the same location — in the firm's Gainesville, Georgia, facility — out of an abundance of caution. Almark has also temporarily halted production until the contamination is resolved.

The latest item to be recalled is the Cheesewich Ready to Eat Bacon N Eggs, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. It recently issued a public health alert to further inform consumers that these products shouldn't be eaten.

Listeriosis is a serious infection, especially among pregnant women, newborns, and adults ages 65 and older.

"Listeria monocytogenes is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems," the FDA stated.

"Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, a Listeria monocytogenes infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women," the FDA said.

Here’s What’s Been Recalled

The products include an assortment of hard-boiled egg products that were sold under more than 30 brand names, including Almark, 7 Select, Best Choice, Kroger, and Lucerne.

They were distributed nationwide and have "Best If Used By" dates through March 2, 2020.

The recalled items include pillow packs, pouch packs, frozen diced, and protein kit egg products.

A list of the affected products can be viewed here.

The Cheesewich products were sold in 3.6-ounce (oz.) plastic packages. They had the following "Use By" dates: 12/27/19, 1/3/20, 1/23/20, 1/30/20, 2/5/20, 2/6/20, 2/14/20, 2/19/20 and 2/28/20.

We Have Listeriosis Outbreaks Every Year

Each year we see about two to three listeriosis outbreaksTrusted Source. Contaminated deli meats, cheeses, and produceTrusted Source often trigger them.

Because the bacterium is widespread in the environment, Listeria contaminations aren't rare, according to Dr. Stanley Deresinski, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care.

"Listeria monocytogenes causes about 1,600 cases of infection each year in the U.S., with most patients requiring hospitalization and approximately 16 percent of the identified cases leading to death," Deresinski told Healthline.

It's always best to follow safe food handling procedures regardless of whether there's an outbreak or not, according to Dr. Andres Romero, an infectious disease specialist at Providence Saint John's Health Center.

Romero recommends thoroughly cooking all animal-sourced food, washing raw vegetables, avoiding unpasteurized milk, and keeping ready-to-eat food cold.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also suggests heating deli meats and hot dogs to steaming hot before consuming. Leftovers should be refrigerated within 2 hours and used within a few days.

To avoid contamination, set your fridge to 40 F (4 C) or lower and your freezer to 0 F (-18 C), the CDC states.

Here’s How the Illness Plays Out

Symptoms usually present around 1 to 4 weeks after eating something contaminated with Listeria.

In certain cases, it can take up to 70 days to become apparent, according to Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"It can be difficult to discern the actual source of a Listeria infection, since symptoms of listeriosis may be delayed," Glatter said.

It's often mistaken for the stomach flu or a stomach bug, Glatter adds. Symptoms typically begin with nausea and diarrhea before advancing to muscle aches, fever, chills, and headache.

Healthy individuals can usually beat the infection without experiencing severe symptoms.

"The overwhelming majority of the time, when people eat foods contaminated with Listeria bacteria, they do not get sick. Our immune systems are able to control it and prevent us from getting an infection," said Dr. Richard Martinello, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist.

In at-risk groups — such as pregnant women or older adults — the infection can spread to the bloodstream and be severe, even deadly.

"Elderly patients and immunocompromised hosts could present with meningitis with devastating neurological damage if untreated," Romero said.

If pregnant women contract it, there's a high risk their unborn child will also contract the infection, which could result in fetal loss, Martinello notes.

In severe cases, prompt antibiotic treatment may be necessary to avoid serious complications.

The Bottom Line 

Hard-boiled eggs contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes have caused a multistate outbreak, sickening seven people.

The eggs have been voluntarily recalled by the food manufacturer Almark Foods.

Listeriosis is a serious, life threatening infection, especially among pregnant women, newborns, and adults ages 65 and older. This is why federal health officials are urging consumers to avoid the affected egg products.

Reposted with permission from Healthline. For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline.

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