Listeria Outbreak Leads to Recall of Cheesewich Snack
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
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.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
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Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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