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Listeria linked to Michigan cheese plant
The Detroit News - 9/30/2022
Oct. 1—Cheeses produced by a Benton Harbor cheese producer have been linked to an outbreak of listeriosis that has sickened six people in six states since 2017, according to an alert issued jointly Friday by the federal Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agencies issued a food safety alert after cases in Michigan, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas involving brie and camembert cheese made by Old Europe Cheese Inc., of Benton Harbor. The company issued a voluntary recall for it brie and camembert cheeses on Friday.
The federal alert urged consumers who have purchased brie and camembert from Old Europe not to eat them, and to dispose of them or return them to the place where they were purchased.
Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, according to the CDC. Most people who become infected are hospitalized. The current outbreak resulted in five hospitalizations but no deaths.
The Michigan Department of Agricuture and Rural Development was contracted to assist the federal agencies' investigation, said Jennifer Holton, spokeswoman for the state agency.
Asked why the alert was issued now when cases stretched back to 2017, a CDC spokesperson said the cases were only recently linked to the Old Europe plant. The spokesperson noted listeria is a hardy bacterium that can survive for years on surfaces that aren't properly cleaned.
State investigators interviewed five of the six people who were infected, including four who where hospitalized. Based on results of the interviews, combined with laboratory data, MDARD concluded the infections were linked to the Benton Harbor facility.
The Old Europe plant was inspected by investigators with the FDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture; the same strain of listeria identified in the outbreak was found in a sample collected from the floor in a cooling room, the press release said.
Brie and camembert cheeses produced by Old Europe are sold under multiple brand names, and a list is available on the CDC website. The products are sold at many grocery chains nationwide, including Albertson's, Giant Foods, Lidl, Stop & Shop, Whole Foods and others.
People who purchased the recalled cheese should throw it away and clean their refrigerator as well as any surfaces the cheese has come into contact with, officials said.
Consumers should contact their physician if they experience symptoms of listeriosis, including headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance or confusion in addition to fever and muscle aches.
People who are pregnant usually experience only fever, fatigue and muscle aches, but officials caution listeria can cause pregnancy loss or premature birth as well as serious illness or even deaths in newborns.
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