Foodborne Illness Dangers for Vulnerable Populations

The FDA has released a report about how foodborne illness is especially dangerous for vulnerable and high risk populations. That includes the very young who are under 1 year of age, older adults, immune-compromised individuals, and pregnant women. Those groups are especially vulnerable to Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. People in those groups accounted for at least 90% of Listeria cases. That illness has a 21% fatality rate.

These groups are more at risk for serious complications and death from these infections because of their weaker immune systems. As we age, our immune system starts to wane. The amount of acid in the stomach, which can kill bacteria, declines. And side effects from treatments for other illnesses, such as chemotherapy for cancer, can weaken the immune system. Children have weaker immune systems because they are still developing. And the immune system of pregnant women is altered to enable the mother to co-exist with the fetus. The body has to work to avoid rejecting the fetus because half of its genes are not the same as the mother’s.

The report states that prevention of foodborne illness is key. The FDA is putting new measures in place as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act to stop contamination of food during the entire food chain, from growth to harvest to processing, manufacturing, and transporting.

But consumers need to pay attention to food safety rules too. Avoid eating raw animal products, which include raw milk and cheeses made from it, undercooked eggs, and raw and undercooked meat and fish dishes. Always wash produce under running water before preparation. Make sure counters and utensils are cleaned and sterilized and avoid cross-contamination. Avoid hot dogs and deli-style meats unless they are reheated to a safe temperature, and avoid deli salads such as chicken or seafood salad. Keep your fridge at 40 degrees F or lower, and your freezer at 0 degrees F or lower. And if you eat at a restaurant, ask about the food you’re ordering; make sure it’s properly cooked, and doesn’t include risky or raw ingredients.

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Further cases of Listeria indentified

18 January 2013

An ongoing national investigation has linked a further seven cases of listeria to soft cheeses. There are now 18 cases of listeria infection nationally, and a link to batches of Jindi manufactured cheeses sold at delicatessens and supermarkets has been identified.

The Jindi Cheese company is now voluntarily recalling its cheeses from all batches it manufactured up until January 7.

listeria sample

listeria sample

Dr Lisa Szabo, Chief Scientist, NSW Food Authority, advised that affected Jindi cheeses should either be discarded or returned to the retailer for a refund. There are a number of brand names included in the recall. Consumers should check the list of products or call the Jindi helpline on 1800 680 175.

Professor Wayne Smith, Acting Director of Health Protection, NSW Health, advises that the recalled Jindi foods should not be consumed.

Eight cases of listeria have been identified in Victoria, six in NSW, two in Queensland and single cases in Tasmania and Western Australia. Two people – a Victorian man, 84, and a Tasmanian man, 44, have died of listeriainfection, and a NSW woman miscarried.

Professor Lynn Gilbert, Clinical Lead, Infection Prevention and Control, Western Sydney Local Health District, said that at risk groups should be aware that some foods are potentially harmful to them.

“Pregnant women, and the elderly, in particular need to aware of this recall. Sadly, a woman in NSW has miscarried after contracting listeria,” said Prof Gilbert.

Listeria is a bacteria that can affect a range of food products, particularly soft cheeses such as camembert and brie, despite strict hygiene and manufacturing controls,” Prof Gilbert said.

“The infection will cause minor or no symptoms in the vast majority of healthy people who may contract it, but is particularly dangerous for some vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and the elderly. Early symptoms of listeria include fever, headache, tiredness, aches and pains.

“It’s extremely important that at risk groups are aware of the dangers of associated with soft cheeses and what Jindi products have been recalled.”

For the full list of products please visit:

http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/news/alerts-recalls/product-recall-jindi-cheeses/

Information about listeria, and the type of foods at risk, can be found on the NSW Health website at:

http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/news/Pages/Listeria-Health-Alert.aspx

Further information about what foods to avoid can be found at:

http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/consumers/life-events-and-food/

Listeria outbreak prompts cheese recall – The Age

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A listeria outbreak has prompted a nation-wide recall of certain brands of soft cheeses.

Eight cases of listeria infection across Australia have found to be linked and a further three cases are under investigation, Victoria’s Department of Health said.

The state’s chief health officer Rosemary Lester said consumers should discard 1kg brie and camembert cheese branded Jindi, the 1kg Wattle Valley double brie and the 1kg Wattle Valley camembert with a best before date of December 21.

Dr Lester warned consumers to check the best before date of any Jindi or Wattle Valley soft cheeses.

“Consumers who have purchased a cut portion of camembert or brie from a supermarket or delicatessen who are unsure of the brand should discard it,” she said.

Two Victorians, three NSW residents and one person in Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia have been diagnosed with the infection.

The cheeses have been voluntarily recalled as a precaution.

Listeria infections usually only produce mild symptoms in healthy people, but can be dangerous to pregnant women, their unborn babies and elderly people, Dr Lester said.

“It can cause miscarriages in pregnant women and even death in people with compromised immune systems,” Dr Lester said.

“Investigations into listeria are complex as it can be difficult to identify the source.

“Symptoms of illness can take up to 70 days to appear.”

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/listeria-outbreak-prompts-cheese-recall-20121218-2bky2.html#ixzz2FXQ4rsjW

December 18th 2012