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Illinois food poisoning attorneysThere are a wide variety of pathogens that can lead to food poisoning. While most people are aware of the dangers of salmonella or E. coli, they may not know about listeria. Food poisoning cases involving this bacteria are less common, but they are often more serious, and an infection can result in severe illness or death. Recently, a significant number of listeria infections were linked to several different cheese products sold by the company El Abuelito, Inc.

Contaminated Cheese Products

Beginning in October of 2020 and continuing through March of 2021, multiple cases of listeria infections were reported across four states by people who had eaten Hispanic-style cheese products. As a result, El Abuelito, Inc. has recalled a number of products, including queso fresco cheeses with sell-by dates through March 28, 2021, quesillo and Oaxaca cheeses with sell-by dates through April 16, 2021, and requeson (ricotta) cheeses with sell-by dates through March 14, 2021. The recalled brands included:

  • El Abuelito
  • El Viejito
  • El Sabrosito
  • El Paisano
  • Rio Lindo
  • Rio Grande
  • La Cima
  • San Carlos
  • Quesos Finos
  • Ideal

In some cases, these products may have been repackaged at stores and sold without brand labels or under different brand names. Customers who purchased cheeses that may have been subject to a recall have been advised to throw them away or return them to the store.

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Mushroom Listeria Case Causes Four DeathsThere are numerous mushrooms that grow in the wild that are poisonous, and it is difficult to tell the difference between a safe and deadly wild mushroom. Health professionals recommend that consumers only eat mushrooms that they buy in a store or are served in a restaurant. However, it is still possible to get food poisoning from eating store-bought mushrooms. A recent listeria outbreak linked to packaged mushrooms resulted in four deaths and 30 hospitalizations.

Outbreak Details

Sun Hong Foods recalled its packages of enoki mushrooms on March 9 due to potential listeria contamination. Thirty-six people across more than a dozen states had reportedly become ill with listeriosis, and half of the patients said they had recently eaten mushrooms. Tests conducted on enoki mushrooms sold in California found that they were contaminated with listeria. Enoki mushrooms are long and white with small caps and are commonly used in cuisine from Asian countries. Listeria can contaminate fresh-grown produce through soil, water, and animal feces. Once listeria infects a food processing facility, it can spread to other products in the facility.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listeria is the third-leading cause of food-poisoning deaths in the U.S. People who are elderly, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women are the ones who are most at risk from listeriosis. Among the recent outbreak, six pregnant women became ill and two lost their fetuses. People who are sick with listeriosis may experience fever, muscle aches, headaches, stiff neck, and a loss of balance.

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Produce Linked to Many Food Poisoning Cases in U.S.Raw fruits and vegetables are undeniably an important part of a nutritious diet, but they can also be a source of food poisoning. In fact, a 2015 study from the Centers for Disease Control found that almost half of the reported food poisoning cases from 2008 to 2012 came from eating raw produce. The CDC cited several possible reasons for this:

  • People are eating raw produce more often.
  • The cleaning process on some farms actually traps harmful bacteria in the produce.
  • Some bacteria cannot be removed by washing it off.

If you are certain that eating fresh fruits or vegetables caused your food poisoning, then you may be entitled to compensation from the people that grew or packaged the products.

Apples Recall

As a recent example, a Michigan company recalled apples it had shipped out from Oct. 16 to 24 because of possible listeria contamination. The apples were sold in bags with the brand names Great Lakes and North Bay Pure Michigan and distributed to retailers and wholesalers in eight states, including Illinois. No listeriosis cases had been reported at the time of the recall. Companies often issue voluntary recalls in advance of outbreaks because they know they could be liable if a consumer became sick. Listeriosis is usually not life-threatening to healthy adults but can be more serious for children, the elderly, and pregnant women.

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Listeria Threat Linked to Pre-Packaged SandwichesListeria outbreaks in the U.S. are rare compared to other forms of food poisoning, but food manufacturers and regulators take the potential of an outbreak seriously. For instance, Lipari Foods recently issued a voluntary recall of some of its pre-packaged sandwiches because they potentially contained listeria monocytogenes. The products included chicken salad and ham and cheese sandwiches under the Premo, Fresh Grab, and Lipari Old Tyme brand names. Lipari Foods distributed the sandwiches to retailers in 15 states, including Illinois. There were no reported illnesses connected to the recalled products as of the announcement of the recall on Oct. 8. A listeria infection, known as listeriosis, can be life-threatening, depending on the patient.

Those Most Vulnerable

Symptoms of listeriosis may appear as soon as a day after eating contaminated food or take weeks to develop. The severity of the symptoms depends on whether the infection has spread beyond the gut – known as invasive listeriosis – and may include:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Stiff neck
  • Loss of balance

Healthy adults rarely develop long-lasting illnesses from listeriosis, but the infection can be more serious for children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. Patients with invasive listeriosis often require hospitalization, and about one in five patients die according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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Frozen Vegetables Causing Listeria OutbreaksListeria is a relatively rare yet potentially fatal form of food poisoning caused by bacteria in food. On average, about one in six people who contract listeria die from the symptoms. Listeria is often associated with foods such as:

  • Raw milk;
  • Soft cheese;
  • Deli meats;
  • Raw hot dogs;
  • Raw spouts; and
  • Smoked seafood.

However, there have been multiple incidents in recent years when listeria has been found in frozen vegetable packages.

Recent Outbreaks

Nature’s Touch Frozen Foods recently recalled its Signature Select Avocado Chunks because of potential listeria contamination. The product was sold in nine different store brands in 15 states, mostly in the western half of the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control previously investigated a listeria outbreak that started in 2013 and forced CRC Frozen Foods to recall all of its organic and frozen vegetables and fruits. Nine people were hospitalized and three of them died, though only one person was believed to have died from listeria. In 2018, nine people in Europe died from a listeria outbreak that was traced to a frozen vegetable brand distributed in 107 countries.

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