Typically, Listeriosis affects older adults, pregnant women, infants and adults with compromised immune systems.
Listeria is named after Dr. Joseph Lister, an English surgeon who introduced sterilization into surgery. The mouthwash Listerine is also named after Dr. Lister.
Symptoms and Treatment
Symptoms include fever and muscle aches, and sometimes diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems. Other symptoms are headache, confusion, and convulsions.
Almost everyone diagnosed with listeriosis has an infection that has spread beyond the gastrointestinal tract.
Infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or infection of the newborn.
Listeriosis can be treated with antibiotics.
Thoroughly cook meat.
Clean raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
Keep uncooked meats and poultry separate from vegetables and from cooked foods.
Do not drink unpasteurized milk or eat foods that contain unpasteurized milk.
Wash hands, utensils and countertops after handling uncooked foods.
Recommendations for persons at high risk:
Do not eat hot dogs, cold cuts, other deli meats, or fermented or dry sausages unless they are cooked properly.
Do not eat refrigerated meat spreads and pâtés.
Do not eat soft cheese unless it is labeled as made with pasteurized milk.
Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is in a cooked dish or it is canned.
Timeline of selected US cases
Turkey Deli Meat – 2002
Multistate outbreak of L. monocytogenes associated with turkey deli meat.
September 18, 2002 – The CDC announces that it is investigating an outbreak of listeriosis infections.
October 12, 2002 – Pilgrim’s Pride Foods, in Franconia, Pennsylvania, recalls 27.4 million pounds of fresh and frozen ready-to-eat turkey and chicken products produced since May 1, 2002. In total, 54 illnesses, eight deaths, and three fetal deaths are reported in nine states.
Multistate outbreak of listeria associated with cantaloupes.
All the tainted cantaloupes were grown at Jensen Farms in Granada, Colorado. They were shipped to 17 states. Cases of listeriosis were reported in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Health officials call it the deadliest food outbreak in the United States in nearly 100 years, and the third-deadliest outbreak in US history.
September 12, 2011 – The outbreak is announced by the CDC. A total of 15 persons infected were reported from four states. All illnesses started on or after August 15, 2011.
September 14, 2011 – The US Food and Drug Administration issues a press release to announce that Jensen Farms has issued a voluntary recall of its Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes after being linked to a multistate outbreak of listeriosis. In total, 147 illnesses and 33 deaths are reported in 28 states.
September 26, 2013 – Eric and Ryan Jensen, brothers who own Jensen Farms, are taken into custody and charged with introducing tainted cantaloupe into interstate commerce.
October 22, 2013 –The Jensen brothers plead guilty to misdemeanor charges.
January 28, 2014 – They are sentenced to five years’ probation, including six months in home detention, for their role in the 2011 listeriosis outbreak.
Ricotta Cheese – 2012
September 10, 2012 – Multistate outbreak of listeriosis associated with Frescolina Marte Brand Ricotta Salata Cheese. Forever Cheese, Inc., initiates a voluntary recall of Frescolina Marte Brand Ricotta Salata Cheese with a single lot number. Four days later, Forever Cheese, Inc., expands the recall and removes all cheese related to the Italian exporter from the market.
In total, 22 illnesses and four deaths are reported in 13 states and the District of Columbia from the outbreak.
Cheese – 2013
July 3, 2013 – Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Company in Wisconsin recalls three types of cheeses made on or before July 1 due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.
July 5, 2013 – A joint investigation by the CDC and the FDA indicates that cheese made by Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Company of Wisconsin is the likely source of this outbreak.
In total, six illnesses and one death are reported in five states.
February 21, 2014-April 18, 2014 – The CDC reports on an outbreak that occurred between August and November 2013.
February 23, 2014-March 1, 2014 – Roos Foods of Kenton, Delaware, recalls a variety of Amigo, Mexicana and Santa Rosa De Lima cheeses.
December 19, 2014 – The CDC announces it is investigating an outbreak of listeriosis linked to caramel apples.
January 6, 2015 – Bidart Bros. voluntarily recalls Granny Smith and Gala apples due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination at their apple-packing facility.
March 13, 2015 – The CDC announces it is working with the FDA to investigate an outbreak of listeriosis linked to Blue Bell Ice Cream. Blue Bell removes its product “Scoops” from the market.
March 23, 2015 – Blue Bell announces the recall of 3 oz. institutional/food service ice cream cups.
April 20, 2015 – Blue Bell voluntarily recalls all of its products on the market.
June 10, 2015 – The CDC says that the investigation is over. In all, 10 people in four states were infected and hospitalized, and three people died.
April 23, 2016 – CRF Frozen Foods recalls 11 of its products because of possible contamination. The outbreak is traced back to strains of Listeria that have hospitalized eight people in three states since September 2013.
May 2, 2016 – CRF expands its recall to include all frozen vegetable and fruit products processed at its Pasco, Washington, facility since May 2014. This accounts for 358 products sold under 42 brands.
March 9, 2017 – The CDC announces it is working with the FDA to investigate an outbreak of listeriosis linked to soft raw milk cheese made by Vulto Creamery in Walton, New York. Vulto Creamery has recalled all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie and Willowemoc soft raw milk cheeses.
Enoki Mushrooms – 2020
Timeline of selected cases outside the US
June 3, 2008 – The first known cases in the outbreak are reported in Ontario. The number of infections reported is unusually high.
June 17, 2008 – First death in the outbreak.
July 18, 2008 – Processed meat from Maple Leaf Foods is identified as the possible source of contamination.
July 2010 – Health authorities launch a retrospective study after an increase in the number of cases reported, 16 months after the outbreak began.
September 2013 – The first cases are noted, according to the Danish research institute Statens Serum Institut.
European Union – 2015-2018
December 2015 – The first case is reported in the United Kingdom.
January 2017 – The outbreak begins.
July 2017 – Doctors report an unusually high number of cases in babies to the National Institute of Communicative Diseases. As a result, a review of all cases is ordered.