Health

Listeria outbreak linked to brie cheese sold under Lidl, Trader Joe’s brands

Brie cheese sold under the brand of popular grocery chains Lidl and Trader Joe’s has been linked to an outbreak of listeria, the CDC reveals.

The outbreak has affected six people across California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Texas. Five people have been hospitalized. No deaths tied to the outbreak have been reported.

Old Europe Cheese, Inc, based in Benton Harbor, Michigan is issuing a recall of its products after contamination from the bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the firm supplies cheese to 25 brands.

The brands are sold in many US grocery stores, including Giant, Whole Foods, Lidl and Trader Joe’s.

The affected lots have best-by dates from between September 28 to December 14, 2022. Confirmed infections date back as far as August 2017.

Listeria is a bacterial infection often associated with dairy products – like cheese – and deli meats. It can be highly dangerous to pregnant women, newborns and the elderly. 

Trader Joe's brand brie cheese is included in the recall

Lidl (left) and Trader Joe’s (right) brands brie cheese is included in the recall

The cases of listeria are spread across six US states California , Georgia, Massachusetts , Michigan, New Jersey and Texas (green)

The cases of listeria are spread across six US states California , Georgia, Massachusetts , Michigan, New Jersey and Texas (green)

WHAT IS LISTERIOSIS?

Most people that catch listeriosis, caused by bacteria called listeria, will only experience mild symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhoea.

Other symptoms of the infection can include a high temperature of 38C or above, aches and pains, and chills, according to the NHS.

Listeria monocytogenes (stock) as found in the pre-packaged food sold at hospitals

Listeria monocytogenes (stock) as found in the pre-packaged food sold at hospitals

However, more serious complications can develop in those with weakened immune systems, babies, the elderly and pregnant women.

Many foods can harbour listeria, but it is usually found in unpasteurised milk, soft cheeses and ready-to-eat foods, such as prepacked sandwiches. 

Listeria is widespread in the environment and can be found in raw food and soil, and in the droppings of many mammals, birds, and fish.

Around 180 cases of listeriosis are confirmed every year in England, according to figures. It strikes around 850 annually in the US.

HOW CAN YOU AVOID LISTERIOSIS?

  • wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • wash fruit and vegetables before eating them
  • store ready-to-eat foods as recommended by the manufacturer
  • make sure all hot food is steaming hot all the way through

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the voluntary recall on Friday. The CDC issued a notice then tying the recall to the current outbreak.

The six cases linked to the cheese supplier by the CDC are spread out over the past five years.

A case in August 2017 was reported first, followed by a second a year-and-a-half later in 2019. In January 2020 a third was tied to the cheese.

Three cases were confirmed over the past six months though, including two in May and one in August.

Five of these patients required hospitalization to deal with their illness. None of the patients died from complications related to the infection.

Old Europe Cheese supplies it cheese to over two-dozen brands, who sell in a total of nearly 100 products that are included in the recall.

Affected brands include: Black Bear, Block & Barrel, Charmant, Cobblestone, Culinary Tour, Fredricks, Fresh Thyme, Glenview Farms, Good & Gather, Heinen’s, Joan of Arc, La Bonne Vie, Lidl, Life in Province, Market 32, Matrie’d, Metropolitan, Prestige, Primo Taglio, Red Apple Cheese, Reny Picot, St Randeaux, Taste of Inspiration, Trader Joe.

The FDA warns that some products not even mentioned in their warning could be affected, as these aged cheese products are sometimes repackaged and resold.

The disease is normally picked up from eating food that has been contaminated — such as raw vegetables, meat and unpasteurized milk — with the microbes.

But in rare cases it can also be picked up from close contact with farm animals.

Patients who have Listeria in their intestines can suffer diarrhea and vomiting, with symptoms beginning within 24 hours of catching it.

But in cases where the bacteria spreads to the rest of the body it can trigger fever, muscle aches, fatigue and headaches.

The CDC reports that up to a third of people infected will die of the disease in any given year, with older people and those with a weakened immune system at higher risk.

About 1,600 Americans are diagnosed with the disease every year, and of this number 260 die from the illness.

Officials are advise people at high risk and who have symptoms of a Listeria infection to contact their healthcare provider. 

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