4 dead, 20 sick in Listeria outbreak linked to ricotta cheese from Italy

As of October 11, 2012, a total of 20 persons infected with the outbreak-associated strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from 12 states and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Nineteen ill persons reported being hospitalized. Nine of the illnesses were related to a pregnancy; three of these illnesses were diagnosed in newborns. The other 11 ill persons range in age from 30 years to 87 years, with a median age of 77 years, and 55% of them are female. Four deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to at least two of these deaths. One fetal loss has also been reported.

On September 14, 2012, Forever Cheese, Inc. issued an expanded recall of all lots and production codes of Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata cheese and issued a market withdrawal of all cheeses they received that were produced by the Italian cheese exporter.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration identified the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in a sample of uncut imported Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata cheese distributed by Forever Cheese, Inc. FDA is working closely with CDC, the firm involved, and public health authorities in states where illnesses occurred to determine the exact cause of contamination.

The cheese originated in Italy, and two weeks ago, a food safety friend mailed me a translation of an Italian version of this story; with the blog down and extra work, I’m just getting caught up so apologize for the delay.

He also says it’s the first time he can recall authorities going public over a Listeria recall.

Notice is hereby given that, as a result of the activity conducted by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the National Institute of Health and the Health and Food Safety Carabinieri Department (Nas) to determine the cause of human listeriosis cases which occurred in the United States as a result of consumption ricotta cheese produced by the company “Fattorie Chiarappa” with a production site in Conversano (BA), the public prosecutor in Bari has ordered the seizure in the entiry national territory of the following products:

  • Ricotta frescolina Marte type Toscanella
  • Ricotta Torretta Marte
  • Smoked Ricotta frescolina Marte
  • Ricotta marzotica Marte greek type
  • Ricotta marzotica Marte.

“The seizure, under the order of the prosecutor’s office, will be performed by the Nas and the State Forestry Corps. 

“The recall from the marketplace of the products above has become necessary as a precaution, since satisfactory food safety measures have not been found [unpon inspection] as required by the food hygiene regulations.“