Written by Faith Anderson on September 14, 2011
Listeriosis is a rare and dangerous illness caused by eating food contaminated with a bacteria called Listeria. A person with listeriosis typically exhibits symptoms like fever and muscle aches, and almost everyone diagnosed with listeriosis has “invasive” infection, in which the bacteria spreads beyond the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms in addition to fever and muscle aches can include stiff neck, headache, loss of balance, confusion and convulsions. According to the CDC, about 800 cases of Listeria infection are diagnosed each year in the United States, along with three or four outbreaks of Listeria-associated foodborne illness. The typical foods that cause these outbreaks have been hot dogs, deli meats and Mexican-style soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. Although produce is not often identified as a source, sprouts caused an outbreak in 2009 and celery in 2010.
FDA and CDC Recommendations for Consumers
Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in high-risk groups like older adults, and people with compromised immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions like cancer. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and serious illness or death in newborn babies. FDA officials along with public health officials are investigating where in the supply chain the contamination may have occurred, and where potentially contaminated products may have been distributed. Both FDA and state public health officials have collected product and environmental samples to aid in the investigation, and laboratory testing is reportedly underway. The CDC recommends that consumers at high risk for listeriosis do not eat cantaloupes marketed as coming from the Rocky Ford region of Colorado. Cantaloupes from this region of Colorado should be disposed of in a closed plastic bag placed in a sealed trash can to prevent people or animals from eating them. Consumers who believe they might have become ill from eating possibly contaminated cantaloupes should consult their doctor immediately.