What is Listeria Food Poisoning?

Eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria can cause an infection called listeriosis. Most often, these infections occur in pregnant women, newborn babies, seniors and people with compromised immune systems. It’s a serious but uncommon illness that is treated with antibiotics. About 1,600 cases are reported annually in the U.S. Almost all of them require hospitalization and about 20 percent prove fatal.

Symptoms of a Listeria infection, which can take up to 70 days to develop, include stiff neck, headache and muscle soreness sometimes preceded by nausea, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Complications include: meningitis, septicemia, pneumonia, hydrocephalus, encephalitis, seizures, blindness, brain stem damage, cranial nerve palsies, cervical cord compression and, among pregnant women miscarriage and stillbirth.

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Listeria CDC
This is one cell of Listeria in tissue. According to the CDC, about 1,600 people become seriously ill each year. Of these, 260 die.

Pregnant Women at Special Risk

Pregnant women are 20 times more likely than other people to contract listeriosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About one-sixth of all patients diagnosed with listeriosis are pregnant women. And the infection can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or infection in newborns. Even if the pregnant woman experiences only mild illness.

How Does Food Get Contaminated?

Listeria monocytogenes occurs in nature and is found in soil, water plants and the intestines of animals. The bacteria have been found in at least 37 species of mammal, 17 bird species and a variety of fish and shellfish. A hardy bacterium, it is remarkably resistant to freezing, drying, and, to some extent, heating.

Because animals can carry it in their intestines without becoming sick, this pathogen sometimes spreads to meat and dairy products. Although the bacteria are killed through cooking and other heating methods used to produce ready-to-eat foods such as pasteurization, some ready-to-eat foods become contaminated after processing. This kind of contamination can take place in the processing plant or on the road from the processor to your plate.

Listeria Monocytogenes Outbreaks

A variety of foods have been identified as the source of Listeria outbreaks. They include:

  • Raw produce, including lettuce, cantaloupe, cucumbers, cilantro, peaches, nectarines, plums and apples (caramel apple outbreak in 2014);
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheese made from raw milk; and
  • Cooked or processed foods, including ice cream, certain soft cheeses, processed (or ready-to-eat) meats (for example, hot dogs and deli ham), smoked seafood.

Listeria Outbreak Linked to Cooked Chicken

In August of 2019, health officials linked a Listeria outbreak that sickened 24 people in 13 states, to cooked chicken. Two of the people sickened have died. The outbreak is likely linked to a multitude of Listeria recalls associated with Tip Top Poultry frozen, cooked, diced, or shredded ready-to-eat chicken products. Tip Top provided the recalled chicken to the Suter Company and Baja Foods, who then supplied it to E.A. Sween Company, who manufactured the products. Our Listeria legal team is representing a client who was hospitalized with Listeria after eating Tip Top chicken salad that was purchased from Sam’s Club in Papillon, Nebraska.

Johnson County Ham Listeria Outbreak

Four people in Virginia and North Carolina were sickened by the same strain of Listeria bacteria over more than a year: July of 2017 (1); June of 2018 (2); and August of 2018 (1). Ham products collected from the Johnston County Hams, Inc. facility in Smithfield, North Carolina, in 2016 and in early 2018 tested positive for the outbreak strain.

Vulto Creamery Raw Milk Cheese

Two people died and six were sickened in an outbreak linked to recalled Vulto Creamery soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses. That dairy is located in Walton, New York. The products were sold at Whole Foods stores and other retail outlets around the country.  The outbreak was announced in March 2017.  And a baby was born infected with listeriosis.

CRF Frozen Food’s Frozen Vegetable Products

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in conjunction with the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has since March 2016 been investigating a serious, nationwide outbreak. They have now pinpointed CRF Frozen Foods, based in Pasco, Washington, as the source of this outbreak, which has infected eight (8) people since September 13, 2013.

Miller’s Organic Farm Raw Milk

After 2 years, we now know that raw milk is most likely the source of an outbreak that sickened 2 people, one in California and one in Florida, in 2014. Miller’s Organic Farm in Bird-In-Hand, Pennsylvania, is the likely source of this outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Both people were hospitalized, and the person from Florida died.

Legal Help for Listeria Food Poisoning

If you or a loved one has been sickened, you can contact our Listeria lawyers for a free consultation about a Listeria lawsuit for compensation for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages. The Pritzker Hageman Listeria Team has won millions for our clients with wrongful death and personal injury claims including a $4.5 million award for a man who developed meningitis and suffered permanent brain damage.

Our law firm has helped people in the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wyoming.
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