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California Dairy Recalls Soft Cheeses Linked With Listeria Illnesses And Death

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States (US) is holding an in-depth investigation of the food positioning outbreak caused by the bacterium called Listeria Monocytogenes.

Majority of the people reported eating a soft cheese product manufactured by cheese giant Karoun Dairies, Inc. a month before symptoms took place. Karoun was the only cheese brand reported in the cases. The outbreak left one dead and twenty-one others hospitalized. One of the survivors lost her unborn baby due to food poisoning.

Karoun Dairies voluntarily pulled out its brands including Queso del Valle, Karoun, Arz, Central Valley Creamery, Gopi and Yanni. None of these products tested positive or showed traces of the bacterium but the company recalled the products nevertheless.

Through genome sequencing, the investigators found a connection of the reported cases to a 2010 food poisoning incident. The outbreak that took place in August 2015 is the biggest incident of listeria food poisoning, one that covers nine states with a concentration in California.

"We'll take whatever action necessary to make the public's health a number one priority," said Rostom Baghdassarian, Karoun Dairies' chief operating officer. The company stopped distributions of the cheeses involved and is working with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) with the investigation.

Karoun Dairies distributed a list of all the recalled cheese. The Universal Product Code and best-before dates were also included to help consumers check if they have the affected products at home. The recalled products mostly include soft cheeses like cotija, mozzarella, feta, paneer and string cheese. People are advised to carefully discard these items by wrapping them in plastic bag before throwing inside closed trash bins. This will prevent animals from ingesting the food. Thoroughly wash containers, utensils, drawers and other kitchen utensils that might have come in contact with the food with soapy hot water.

Spokesperson from Karoun Dairies said they use a pasteurization process for all their products. This sterilization process is meant to kill the said bacterium. Using pasteurized milk is not enough to prevent listeria contamination. Early in 2015, the FDA reported listeria outbreak in Ohio where an ice cream company Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams was found with poor sanitation practices.

Symptoms for listeria infection can take up to two months to manifest. These include fever, muscle pain, stiff neck, unexplained fatigue, loss of balance, and seizures. Older people and those with weak immune system - infants and pregnant women - have higher risk of developing listeria infection. If you suspect you have been infected, visit your physician immediately for treatment.

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