Listeria Outbreak Turns Deadly,
Teratology Society Past President Offers
Facts for Pregnant Women
At least one person has died and another 11 hospitalized after eating certain pre-packaged salads containing the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Reports of sickness have been surfacing since last summer, including one in a pregnant woman, after those affected ate salads under the brand names Dole, Fresh Selections, Simple Truth, Marketside, The Little Salad Bar and President’s Choice. The six states in which those hospitalized reside include Michigan, New York, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The salads were distributed in 23 states.
Mary Alice Smith, PhD, Teratology Society Past President and Professor of Environmental Health Science at the University of Georgia and whose research focuses on developmental toxicology, wrote an article recently about the dangers of Listeria to pregnant women after a similar outbreak of prepackaged foods in 2014. “When pregnant women eat food containing the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, it can result in a stillbirth or the birth of an infant infected with the bacteria,” she wrote.
“Pregnant women who have listeriosis, the disease caused by Listeria monocytogenes, can have symptoms similar to the flu (chills, fever, muscle and joint aches, headaches), diarrhea, or can show no symptoms at all. These symptoms usually occur within a few days after consuming a contaminated food,” she added.
Dr. Smith, as well as CDC health officials, urge pregnant women who have these symptoms to see their health care provider.
According to Dr. Smith, other sources of foods are considered ‘high risk’ and have been associated with outbreaks of listeriosis. Pregnant women should avoid consuming these high risk foods such as unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses such as queso fresco that may become contaminated during processing, uncooked meats, and meats that may become contaminated after processing such as hot dogs, smoked meats, and deli meats. These meats should be cooked until reaching a temperature of 165⁰F or to steaming before being consumed by pregnant women. Because Listeria can grow at refrigerator temperatures, foods should be consumed by the expiration date on the container, and all leftovers should be consumed within 3-4 days.
To read more about the latest Listeria outbreak, click here.
For more evidence-based information about listeria’s known risks to a pregnancy or while breastfeeding, please visit our sister society’s MotherToBaby fact sheet.