Our food safety attorneys are some of the only lawyers in the nation who have won money for women who lost babies from Listeria food poisoning. In almost every case our clients had never heard of Listeria before losing their unborn babies. Much more needs to be done to warn pregnant women of this dangerous pathogen and how to prevent it. Listeria during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and the death of a newborn.
When a pregnant women eats food contaminated with Listeria, the bacterium colonize in her intestines and give her mild, flu-like symptoms. However, bacteria can enter the placenta and then the baby, causing the baby to also contract a Listeria infection. When this happens, the baby often dies. Listeria infections in newborns cause Listeria meningitis almost half of the time. In some cases, it takes several days after birth for the baby to display signs of meningitis, an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord that causes brain damage and death.
Listeria outbreaks are rare, although often because victims are difficult to identify, rather than food being entirely safe. The reason it is harder to identify Listeria victims and the food that poisoned them is that the incubation period (the time between eating contaminated food and starting to show symptoms) for Listeria disease (listeriosis) can be 60 days or longer. Because of this, most people have never heard of this kind of food poisoning, even though it is often fatal. This is also the reason hiring an experienced Listeria attorney with access to food safety resources and experts can be so important.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that pregnant women are 13 times more likely to contract a Listeria infection than the general population. Not surprisingly, one-third of the pregnant women diagnosed with this disease are Hispanic. This is because soft cheese (often queso fresco, made from unpasteurized milk) used primarily in Hispanic cooking is the food most commonly associated with listeriosis.
Listeria Prevention Information for Pregnant Women
Foods most commonly associated with Listeria infections in pregnant women including the following:
- Unpasteurized soft cheese, including queso fresco, queso blanco, Feta, Brie, Camembert;
- Unpasteurized (raw) milk or any product made from raw milk;
- Refrigerated smoked salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna and mackerel (sometimes referred to as nova-style, lox, kippered or jerky);
- Crab dips and spreads;
- Hot dogs;
- Deli meats (ham and turkey, primarily);
- Pâtés and meat spreads;
- Melons, including cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew;
Cooking food to 160 degrees Fahrenheit can kill Listeria bacteria, so the foods above should not be eaten by pregnant women unless they are cooked to this temperature. In some cases, like melons, it is just better to avoid it altogether. In addition, foods contaminated with Listeria can cross-contaminate other foods. Hands, knives, cutting boards and counter tops should be washed very well after preparation of any food, particularly the ones above.
Pritzker Hageman Listeria food poisoning attorneys have won millions of dollars for clients in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against food processors, distributors, retailers and restaurants. You can contact Eric Hageman or any of the Listeria lawyers at our law firm for a free consultation here.