Home Front Page Total Recall: Deadly listeria forces Whole Foods to recall blue cheese

Total Recall: Deadly listeria forces Whole Foods to recall blue cheese

Whole Foods is making a voluntary recall of a popular blue cheese brand after the FDA uncovered evidence of the deadly listeria bacteria.

blue cheese
"Shropshire Blue" by The original uploader was Y6y6y6 at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Drilnoth using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

While listeria may not be as well known as salmonella and other foodborne illnesses, it’s every bit as deadly. So make sure you pay close attention to Whole Foods recent recall.

If you have purchased a blue cheese called Papillion Organic Roquefort, you need to get rid of it immediately because the FDA has found that it could be contaminated with the deadly listeria bacteria.

In response, Whole Foods has launched a massive recall and is moving quickly to get the word out and to warn customers. Given Whole Foods hard earned reputation as a premium retailer selling safe, organic foods, it should be no surprise that the company is moving so quickly.

Especially given how serious listeriosis is. Listeria, is a deadly rod-shaped bacteria that can cause severe cases of food poisoning. The illness caused by listeria is called listeriosis. Listeriosis has a case fatality rate of 20 percent, but this rate can exceed 50 percent in vulnerable populations.

Despite Whole Foods’ best efforts, the recent blue cheese recall adds yet another food item to an ever growing list of recalled products. Last month Karoun Dairies had to recall some of its cheeses as a listeria outbreak claimed the life of one, and sickened many more

So who are these vulnerable populations? Many of the usual suspects. Anyone with immune deficiency problems, such as those afflicted with AIDs, as well as senior citizens, children and pregnant women.

While you might be out of some cheese, you won’t be out of money. Whole Foods customers just have to present their receipt at the nearest store and will be given a full cash refund.

Listeria rarely infects healthy adults. Why? Most of the the body is able to quickly shut down and destroy the bacteria. The immune system of vulnerable populations is not able to immediately control listeria and if the bacteria can survive the body’s initial response, it can slip inside cells and hide from the immune system’s response.

If you have consumed any of the Papillion Organic Roquefort blue cheese and are suffering from symptoms of food poisoning, it is imperative that you seek medical attention. Besides the normal food poisoning symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea, listeria is often accompanied by a stiff neck.

Listeria can be combated with antibiotics, but is is imperative that those who are stricken with the disease seek medical treatment immediately before the bacteria has a chance to overwhelm the body’s immune system.

So far, there have been no confirmed case of listeriosis linked to the cheese,  listeria is difficult to track because its incubation period is hard to predict. Incubation periods can be as short as 2 days, but can last as long as two months or more.

Besides milk and cheese, listeria can also contaminate vegetables, fruits, processed meats, such as deli  meat, and a range of other foods. Throughout 2015 two major outbreaks of listeria have been reported, as have several over outbreaks over the past few years.

The deadliest listeria outbreak in recent memory was caused by cantaloupe. 33 people died in the incident and countless more became sick.

Listeria outbreaks in the United States

Each year, listeria causes approximately 1,600 illness and 260 deaths. If not for the aggressive efforts on the part of the Food & Drug administration, the number of illnesses, and consequently deaths, would likely be much higher.

Listeria has a long and tragic history in the United States. Before increased food packaging and processing safety standards, listeria almost claimed countless lives, though it’s hard to confirm as the disease was not discovered until 1924 by Joseph Lister.

In order to reduce the risk of listeria the Center for Disease Control recommends that you thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables. It’s easy to assume that produce is clean, but fruit borne outbreaks are common.  Refrigerators should be kept below 40 degrees fahrenheit and freezers below zero degrees to discourage growth. You should also store meat safely and cook it thoroughly.

If you’re in a high risk group, you should consider eating cooked vegetables and meats because listeria can be killed by high temperatures.