Italian-style deli meats are being blamed for a multi-state Listeria outbreak in the US. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is asking consumers to take caution when consuming deli meat after this outbreak caused ten hospitalizations and one death.
Illnesses have been reported in Florida, Massachusetts, and New York. While investigating those experiencing illness, all claimed to have eaten Italian-style meats (mortadella, salami, and prosciutto) that were prepackaged or sliced at a deli counter.
Listeria samples from ill people were collected from August 6 to October 3. Ill people ranged in age from 40 to 89 years, with a median age of 81 years. Of those who were ill, eighty percent were female.
According to the CDC, Listeria bacteria can easily spread to other foods and surfaces. Contaminated deli products may spread bacteria to other meats and cheese in shared display cases or equipment at deli counters. The CDC has not identified a specific type of deli meat and common supplier yet.
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, an infection that can lead to a fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal issues, and headaches. The most serious cases can affect the nervous system resulting in confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.
Symptoms can appear 24 hours to four weeks after eating the contaminated food — sometimes even 70 days after ingestion. People most susceptible to listeriosis are pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC.
The CDC advises individuals in these high-risk groups to avoid eating deli meats, unless they are heated to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot just before serving.