Nov. 10, 2022 – A mysterious new listeria outbreak that's killed one person, caused one pregnancy loss, and hospitalized 13 people across six states is suspected to be linked to deli meats and cheeses, U.S. health officials said. 

The FDA is still investigating the outbreak and has not yet determined its exact source, but health officials suspect deli meat and cheese and are urging caution to vulnerable groups considering eating those foods.

“It is difficult for investigators to identify a single food as the source of outbreaks linked to deli meats and cheeses,” the CDC explained in a news release. “This is because Listeria spreads easily between food and the deli environment and can persist for a long time in deli display cases and on equipment.”

The warning includes deli-sold products such as cold cuts, hot dogs, pâtés, and cheeses. Sixteen people have been sickened across California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. The person who died lived in Maryland.

The CDC says the outbreak is likely much larger because most people who come into contact with listeria will not need medical care so they won’t be tested. 

“The true number of sick people in this outbreak is likely higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses,” the CDC explained alongside a map showing current case counts.

People are at a higher risk of listeria illness if they are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, or are age 65 or older, the CDC news release warned.

“If you are in any of these groups, do not eat meat or cheese from any deli counter unless it is reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees or until steaming hot,” the CDC advised.

People in these groups who have kept deli meat or cheese at home recently should clean their refrigerator, health officials advised. 

Listeria is caused by a bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes. People can get sick when they eat food that's been contaminated with the bacteria. Symptoms of listeria illness usually start within 2 weeks but can also appear up to 10 weeks later.  Symptoms in people who are not pregnant include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, convulsions, fever, or muscle aches. Pregnant people usually experience fewer symptoms – just fever, fatigue, and muscle aches – and the illness is extremely dangerous, potentially causing pregnancy loss.

People with severe illness may need to be hospitalized. 

In New York, where seven people were sickened, five bought deli meat or cheese from at least one NetCost Market grocery store, the CDC detailed. The agency reported that one NetCost Market store in Brooklyn closed after being alerted by New York City health officials, then performed “deep cleaning” and has now reopened after “further environmental testing did not identify Listeria.” 

The CDC noted that the exact same store experienced an outbreak in September 2022 with the same listeria strain, but no contamination was found after a deep cleaning in that instance.

“Investigators do not believe that NetCost Market delis are the only source of illnesses because some sick people in the outbreak did not shop at a NetCost Market,” the CDC explained.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

FDA: “Investigations of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks.”

CDC: “Listeria Outbreak Linked to Deli Meat and Cheese,” “Where Sick People Lived,” “Cleaning Your Refrigerator Because of a Food Recall, “Investigation Details.”

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