big-map-5-3-17Case Count: Connecticut (1), Florida (1), New York (5) and Vermont (1)

CDC collaborated with public health and regulatory officials in several states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis). Listeria causes a serious, life-threatening illness.

Listeria specimens from ill people were collected from September 1, 2016 to March 13, 2017. Ill people ranged in age from less than one year to 89 years, with a median age of 52 years. Five of eight ill people were female. All eight (100%) ill people were hospitalized, including two people from Connecticut and Vermont who died. One of the illnesses was reported in a newborn.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicated that soft raw milk cheese made by Vulto Creamery of Walton, New York, was the likely source of this outbreak.

State and local health departments interviewed ill people or their family members about the foods they ate or other exposures in the month before their illness started. Based on those interviews, eight (100%) of eight people ate a soft cheese. The ill resident of Florida reported traveling to New York state and eating soft cheese there before becoming ill. Available information indicated that cheese made by Vulto Creamery was for sale at stores where at least seven of the ill people bought cheese before getting sick.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health collected leftover cheeses from the home of the deceased person in Connecticut. The outbreak strain of Listeria was identified in a leftover cheese that the family identified as Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery.

The New York Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services collected three intact wheels of Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery. The outbreak strain of Listeria was identified in samples taken from the three wheels of cheese. On March 7, 2017, Vulto Creamery recalled all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses. On March 10, the company expanded the recall to include four other cheeses: Andes, Blue Blais, Hamden, and Walton Umber. The raw milk cheeses were distributed nationwide, with most sold in stores in the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states; California; Chicago; Portland, Oregon; and Washington, D.C.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.

If you or a family member became ill with a Listeria infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Listeria attorneys for a free case evaluation.

cantaloupelawsuit.bmpThe Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has confirmed that two elderly women who died of listerosis this month were infected with the same strain of Listeria found in the recalled cantaloupes produced by Jensen Farms in Colorado. 

The cantaloupe Listeria outbreak, which is now the 2nd deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in US history, has sickened 112 people and killed 23, including the families of 6 who have sued Jensen Farms and Frontera Produce Ltd., the distributor. 

This is the first cantaloupe Listeria outbreak, but it is far from the first cantaloupe outbreak.  Here is a link to information about 22 other foodpoisoning outbreaks linked to cantaloupes and Salmonella, E. coli and other bad bugs. 

At 109 sickened with 21 deaths the Jensen Farms Frontera Listeria Outbreak has moved into a tie for second place in the United States’ most deadly foodborne illness outbreaks.  The numbers of ill and dead are expected to increase in this recent Listeria Outbreak that has impacted 24 states (new numbers as of today are 112 sick, 23 dead and 1 miscarriage in 25 states).  Here is a list of not the largest, but deadliest outbreaks in the U.S.:

1.  Jalisco’s Listeria Outbreak

•          January 1985

•          Vehicle: cheese

•          Number ill: 142

•          Deaths: 29

2.  Jensen Farms Frontera Listeria Outbreak

•          September 2011 – ONGOING

•          Vehicle: whole cantaloupe

•          Number ill: 109

•          Deaths: 21

3.  Bil Mar Foods Ready-to-eat Meats Listeria Outbreak

•          January 1998

•          Vehicle: deli and cured meats

•          Number ill: 101

•          Deaths: 21

4.  Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) Salmonella Outbreak

•          September 2008

•          Vehicle:  Peanuts and peanut butter

•          Number ill: 716

•          Deaths: 9

5.  Pilgrim’s Pride Listeria Outbreak

•          July 2002

•          Vehicle: deli meats

•          Number ill: 54

•          Deaths: 8

6.  Dole Brand Natural Selections Bagged Spinach E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak

•          August 2006

•          Vehicle: spinach

•          Number ill: 238

•          Deaths: 5

7.  SanGar Produce Listeria Outbreak

•          January 2010

•          Vehicle: celery

•          Number ill: 10

•          Deaths: 5

8.  Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak

•          November 1992

•          Vehicle: ground beef

•          Number ill: 708

•          Deaths: 4

9.  Chi Chi’s Hepatitis A Outbreak

•          October 2003

•          Vehicle: green onions

•          Number ill: 660

•          Deaths: 4

Thanks to www.outbreakdatabase.com.

groundbeefrecall.jpgIn the midst of lawsuits, deaths, and way too many illnesses in the Listeria cantaloupe outbreak, another food safety recall:  Palo Duro Meat, an Amarillo, Texas, establishment, is recalling 40,000 pounds of frozen fine ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The products subject to recall include:

  • 40-lb boxes containing four 10-lb chubs of fine ground beef.

Each case bears “Est. 7282” inside the USDA mark of inspection and a production code of 19110.

The frozen product was produced on Sept. 9, 2011, and shipped to two warehouses in Georgia for further distribution to institutions. The institutions include six school districts in Georgia associated with the National School Lunch Program. The bulk of the product has not left the warehouses and at this time, FSIS is not aware of any product having been served as part of school lunches in the districts.

The problem was discovered by the company after a review of lab results that confirmed a positive result for E. coli O157:H7 on September 22. The problem may have occurred as a result of a sample tracking error that allowed the product in question to be inadvertently shipped into commerce. FSIS and the company have received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of these products.

Listeria attorneys at Marler Clark, the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of foodborne illness, are warning consumers that the current Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe may become one of the most lethal food poisoning outbreaks in U.S. history.

As of September 23, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed 55 illnesses and eight deaths linked to the contaminated cantaloupes from 14 states. Two people have died in Colorado, one in Maryland, four in New Mexico, and one in Oklahoma. Many, including listeria lawyer William Marler, believe that number will rise as more people are confirmed as part of the outbreak. The contaminated cantaloupes were produced by Jensen Farms, of Holly, Colorado, and distributed by Fronterra Produce.

“Listeria is one of the deadliest foodborne bacteria we deal with, so in an outbreak of this magnitude, we may very well see the death count increase,” said Marler. “Of the dozens of people who have contacted us in this outbreak, some are awaiting health department confirmation that they are officially part of this outbreak. I suspect there are many more out there who are in the same boat.”

According to the FDA, cantaloupes from Jensen Farms and Fronterra Produce were shipped to at least 25 states: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

“From what we’re seeing from distribution numbers and health department reports, by early next week I expect the CDC to add two deaths in Kansas, one in Missouri, and one in Nebraska, for a total of at least twelve dead from eating cantaloupe.” Added Marler, “Sadly, I’m not sure it will stop there.”

The current cantaloupe Listeria outbreak ranks as the fourth deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in U.S. history:

cantaloupe.jpgThe cantaloupe Listeria outbreak linked to fruit from Jensen Farms in Colorado has sickened more than 50 people and killed at least 8.  And these numbers will surely go up.  It is has become a nightmare for many people, including our clients the families of several elderly folks who either passed away or remain in long term hospitalization.

The 2010 egg Salmonella outbreak and recall was a call to reflect on best food safety practices in the egg industry, as was the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak a referendum on produce safety.  Maybe the 2011 cantaloupe Listeria outbreak will ultimately be a boon to food safety too. 

In any event, New Mexico has seen its share of foodpoisoning cases, partially because it is a FoodNet site, which is a collaborative epidemiological project with the CDC and several states and metro areas.  

The JBS E. coli outbreak in 2009 sickened Alex Roerick, then a 14 year old boy from Albuquerque. Alex ate dinner with his grandma on May 10, 2009. He began to experience flu-like symptoms including fatigue, fever, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting by May 13. Alex’s symptoms worsened and he was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital on May 15. He was released several days later, before being rushed back again due to severe bloody diarrhea. His doctors determined that Alex had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a devastating complication of his E. coli O157:H7 infection. The genetic fingerprint of the E. coli found in Alex’s stool matches that of others sickened in the nationwide outbreak tied to recalled JBS Swift Beef. He continues to experience effects of his illness.

It is stories like these, just like those of our clients in the cantaloupe Listeria outbreak, that help industry comprehend and address the contamination problems they face. 

Mark Salley of the Colorado Department of Public Health said Tuesday the state now is reporting 14 confirmed cases of listeria connected to the listeria cantaloupe outbreak.  The CDC reports 35 illnesses and 4 deaths in 10 states, but those numbers are dated, and too few.  Two lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Colorado residents sickened in the outbreak, and one will be filed Wednesday AM in Texas as well.  See 2nd and 3rd Listeria Lawsuits to be Filed in Colorado and Texas

Tomorrow, we will file lawsuits on behalf of two families caught up in the cantaloupe listeria outbreak linked to contaminated cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, of Holly, Colorado.  To date, the CDC counts 35 illnesses and 4 deaths in the outbreak, but these numbers are surely too few.  Colorado media outlets today reported that one of its residents, Shelly Occhipinti-Krout, a 48-year-old mother of three, died at Parker Adventist Hospital Tuesday about three weeks after she became ill. 

The following are short descriptions of our Texas Listeria Lawsuit and Colorado Listeria Lawsuit:

Texas Listeria Lawsuit

In early August 2011, Ceaser Gomez purchased cantaloupe that had been grown, sold, and distributed by Jensen Farms. Mr. Gomez purchased the cantaloupe which, at the time of purchase, was contaminated by Listeria monocytogenes, at either an HEB or Kroger store in Angleton, Texas.

In the days following Mr. Gomez’s cantaloupe purchase described in the foregoing paragraph, his wife Juanita Gomez consumed some of the cantaloupe.  In the late evening hours of August 19, 2011, or the early morning of August 20, 2011, Juanita became ill and developed a fever. Her symptoms progressed and, later in the morning of August 20, Ceaser rushed his wife to the emergency department at Angleton Danburry Medical Center. At the time of her arrival, Mrs. Gomez’s temperature was 105.6 degrees Fahrenheit, her eyes were glassy, she was shaking badly, and she was unable to respond to her family’s simple questions.

After receiving treatment at the Angleton Danburry Medical Center’s emergency department, Mrs. Gomez was discharged home with continuing, though lesser, fever, and persistent nausea and diarrhea.

In the evening of the following day, August 21, personnel at the emergency department called the Gomez household to say that Mrs. Gomez should return immediately to the emergency department for care. Blood tests performed on samples given during her stay in the emergency department the day before showed that she was suffering from a Listeria infection.

The same evening, Mr. and Mrs. Gomez returned to the emergency department at Angleton Danburry Medical Center, where Mrs. Gomez was admitted to the hospital during the early morning hours of August 22, 2011. She remained hospitalized for treatment through August 24, 2011.

After discharge from the hospital, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gomez, Rosa Gomez, spoke on her parents’ behalf to officials with the Brazoria County Health Department, who inquired about the plaintiff’s food history. Health Department officials later confirmed that Mrs. Gomez had been infected by the same strain of Listeria monocytogenes involved in the defendant’s cantaloupe outbreak.

Continue Reading 2nd and 3rd Listeria Lawsuits to be Filed in Colorado and Texas

Given the recent SanGar chopped celery listeria outbreak in Texas, in which at least 4 people have died, today’s report on new listeria research from a Purdue University study could not be more timely.

The study sheds light on how even low doses of listeria, once ingested by humans, can enter into a person’s intestinal wall and exit out to the bloodstream, thus causing serious illness.

Arun Bhunia, a professor of food science, and Kristin Burkholder, a former Purdue graduate student who is now a postdoctoral researcher in microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School, found that listeria, even in low doses, somehow triggers intestinal cells to express a new protein, heat shock protein 60, that acts as a receptor for listeria. This may allow the bacteria to enter the cells in the intestinal wall and exit into a person’s bloodstream. Bhunia and Burkholder’s findings were published in the early online version of the journal Infection and Immunity.

"It’s possible that host cells generate more of these proteins in order to protect themselves during a stressful event such as infection," Burkholder said. "Our data suggest that listeria may benefit from this by actually using those proteins as receptors to enhance infection."
Listeria monocytogenes is a foodborne bacteria that can cause fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea, as well as headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions if it spreads to the nervous system. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it sickens about 2,500 and kills 500 people each year in the United States and primarily affects pregnant women, newborns, older adults and those with weakened immune systems.

The findings suggest that listeria may pass between intestinal cells to sort of seep out of the intestines and into the bloodstream to cause infection.

"That can expedite the infection," Bhunia said.

Measurable increases of the heat shock 60 protein were detected when listeria was introduced to cultured intestinal cells.

Bhunia and Burkholder also introduced listeria to intestinal cells in the upper half of a dual-chamber container and counted the number of bacteria that passed through the cells and appeared in the lower chamber.

The bacteria moved to the lower chamber faster than it is known to do when moving through cells, and did so even when a mutant form of the bacteria that do not invade the intestinal cells was used. This suggests the bacteria are moving around the cells, Bhunia said.

"The infective dose is very low. Even 100 to 1,000 listeria cells can cause infection," Bhunia said. "We believe that these mechanisms are what allow listeria to cause infections at such low levels."

Bhunia said he next would try to understand how listeria and the heat shock 60 protein interact and work to develop methods to protect intestinal cells from the bacteria. The Center for Food Safety Engineering at Purdue funded part of the research.

Yesterday, a company called Del Bueno, of Grandview, Washington, recalled queso fresco cheese products due to potential listeria contamination.  The recall was initiated after routine samping by the Washington State Department of Agriculture detected the presence of listeria monocytogenes in the cheese products, but the Dept. of Ag. also stated today that an illness has been linked to the contaminated cheese. 

Queso fresco is a mexican soft cheese made that is not pasteurized.  As a result, it poses a heightened risk of illness for pregnant women.  The reason, of course, is that the lack of pasteurization means that the product is subjected to no kill step that will eradicate any viable bacterial contamination on the product. 

Queso fresco contaminated by listeria monocytogenes has long been a recognized risk for pregnant women, and it has also caused many very unfortunate illnesses and deaths.  In January 2009, the Illinois Department of Public Health announced that:

Three pregnant Hispanic women in Chicago and suburban Cook County tested positive for listeriosis after becoming ill in late November and December. All three women report eating different types of soft cheese. One woman delivered her baby who also tested positive for listeriosis, but the other two women suffered miscarriages.

Health organizations and the government publish a lot of informaiton on the risks that raw, unpasteurized foods pose to the consuming public in general, and especially to pregnant women.  The Mayo Clinic offers a detailed set of guidelines for pregnant women deciding whether to consume raw foods.  The foods advised against include queso fresco and other unpasteurized cheeses, seafood potentially high in mercury, raw or undercooked seafood, and raw or undercooked meat, poultry and eggs.  I would add raw milk to the list as well.  Whatever the case, pregnant women are estimated to be at a 20 times higher risk of illness, and severe illness, by consuming raw foods.