Deli Meats And Cheeses Are The Likely Source Of New Listeria Outbreak

The American public is no stranger to foodborne illnesses. Back in August, the FDA rolled out a strict new set of guidelines for food producers that would make food easier to trace from farm to store in hopes of curtailing foodborne illness outbreaks or stopping them as soon as they begin. Yet, just a few months ago, on September 24, Behrmann Meat and Processing Inc. recalled a whopping 87,382 pounds of ready-to-eat packaged meats due to a listeria outbreak, according to the USDA. Then, on September 30, the CDC reported a massive cheese-linked listeria outbreak that put five consumers in the hospital.

According to the CDC, listeria outbreaks are tricky to identify in their early stages because, often, infected foods don't appear spoiled. As a result, consumers can't always tell if deli meat has gone bad just by looking at it. Plus, infected folks don't always exhibit any signs of illness right away; typically, symptoms crop up sometime within the first two weeks of exposure. The most common side effects are neck stiffness, confusion, headache, fever, loss of balance, muscle aches, nausea, and intestinal distress — all of which can be reasonably mistaken for the flu. Another listeria outbreak is rocking consumers' food safety now, affecting one of the most sacred institutions in New Yorkers' everyday lives: deli meats and cheeses.

Source yet unidentified

Per the CDC, this listeria outbreak spans six states — seven instances in New York, one in New Jersey, two in Illinois and Massachusetts, three in Maryland, and one in California, via USA Today. So far, 16 people have been reported ill, with 13 hospitalizations, one death, and one pregnancy loss. These figures only represent the number of cases that were reported; there could be others.

No product recalls have yet been announced, but the CDC is actively investigating the specific source of the outbreak. Five of the seven affected persons in New York said they had purchased sliced deli meat and/or cheese from NetCost Market. According to Food Safety News, listeria bacteria were found in open packages of sliced deli meats at NetCost Markets in both Brooklyn and Staten Island. In light of the findings, NetCost Market voluntarily shuttered its Brooklyn location, then reopened after extensive sanitization and a negative listeria test result. Still, the CDC maintains that the outbreak is almost certainly connected to other delis, as well. Open, high-traffic countertops and frequently-used deli slicers make ideal grounds for the breeding and spreading of listeria germs, it says, and refrigeration doesn't kill them.

The affected products include cold cuts, lunch meats, hot dogs, pâtés, and cheeses. For now, the CDC recommends that consumers who are immunocompromised, pregnant, or over the age of 65 stay away from all deli counter meats and cheeses unless they're prepared in a way that leaves them visibly steaming hot.