The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising consumers do not eat any products produced by Wholesome Soy Products, Inc., and for restaurants and retailers not to sell or serve them, in light of an investigation linking these products to five human cases of listeriosis that has resulted in 2 deaths.
According to the investigation report, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isolated Listeria monocytogenes from mung bean sprouts and sprout irrigation water samples obtained during a routine assignment on August 13, 2014, at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc.
Based on this finding, FDA conducted an inspection of the facility from August 12, 2014, through September 3, 2014, and isolated Listeria monocytogenes from 25 environmental swabs obtained during the inspection. FDA also issued a report with 12 inspectional observations, citing the firm for numerous unsanitary conditions and poor equipment maintenance.
On August 28, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. conducted a voluntary recall of mung bean sprouts due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination after FDA isolated the pathogen from samples as a result of a routine assignment.
During FDA inspections of the Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. facility in August and October 2014, investigators observed unsanitary conditions, many of which were present during both inspections. On October 14, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. ceased production of all products except mung bean and soy bean sprouts.
Whole genome sequences of the Listeria strains isolated from mung bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. and environmental isolates collected at the production facility were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from five people who became ill from June through August 2014.
These five ill people were reported from two states: Illinois (4) and Michigan (1). All ill people were hospitalized. Two deaths were reported. The two people interviewed reported eating bean sprouts.
Although limited information is available about the specific sprout products that the ill people consumed, the whole genome sequencing findings, together with the sprout consumption history of two patients and inspection findings at the firm, suggest that these illnesses could be related to products from Wholesome Soy Products, Inc.
The investigation is ongoing.
Listeria monocytogenes is bacteria that is normally found in the environment and has been found in animals, birds and vegetation. It can be found in raw foods and processed foods that get contaminated after processing. Some of the most common foods that are associated with listeriosis are raw milk, soft cheeses, vegetables, and many ready to eat meats like hot dogs, deli meats and pâtés.
Those at greatest risk of serious listeria infection include pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and adults with weakened immune systems (AIDS patients have a significantly high chance, up to 300 times, of contracting the disease).
Most healthy persons show no symptoms of this disease. Initial symptoms of food borne listeriosis include fever, muscle aches, fatigue and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Primarily in high risk groups but occasionally in healthy adults, the infection can spread to the blood and central nervous system where it can cause sepsis and meningitis.
Due to a naturally depressed immune system, pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to contract this disease. Though many women may only experience mild flu-likesymptoms,infections during pregnancy can have devastating consequences to the fetus which include stillbirth or miscarriage, premature delivery and serious infections in the newborn.
What things can you do to prevent this infection? The US CDC offers recommendations to the generalpublic and high risk groups:
• Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, pork, or poultry.
• Wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eating.
• Keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables and from cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods.
• Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk.
• Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.
• Consume perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible
Recommendations for persons at high risk, such as pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems, in addition to the recommendations listed above:
• Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
• Avoid getting fluid from hot dog packages on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats.
• Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, and Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, or Mexican-style cheesessuch as queso blanco, queso fresco, and Panela, unless they have labels that clearly state they are made from pastuerized milk.
• Do not eat refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads. Canned or shelf-stable pâtés and meat spreads may be eaten.
• Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna or mackerel, is most often labeled as “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.” The fish is found in the refrigeratorsection or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens. Canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood may be eaten.
This very hardy bacterium can survive and even grow at refrigeration temperature. Because of this factor, Listeria presents challenges in food safety.
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