Listeria rouses recalls, prompts FDA to draft risk assessment


Following the deaths of three Australian citizens and the rampant contamination of various global edibles, Listeria monocytogenes is making a name of and for itself in the new year.

True to form, the treacherous bacterial contagion has prompted companies across the United States to list and recall certain product lots, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in conjunction with Health Canada, to produce a draft quantitative risk assessment (QRA) aimed at reducing listeria from soft-ripened cheese and revaluate the current 60-day aging requirements set for cheese made with raw milk. The hope is that such rapid, industry-spanning response will curb the listeria hysteria and prevent further fatalities.

According the QRA:  “The United States and Canada have experienced sporadic illnesses and outbreaks of listeriosis associated with the consumption of soft cheese. Both FDA and Health Canada—Santé Canada continue to evaluate the safety of soft cheese, particularly soft cheese made from unpasteurized milk.”

Furthermore, the risk assessment purports that the susceptibility one has toward contracting listeriosis is 50 to 160 times higher with the ingestion of soft-ripened cheeses made with raw milk. The draft scope was listed as such:

  • Pathogen of concern: L. monocytogenes;
  • Food(s) of concern: Camembert, as an example of soft-ripened cheese;
  • Populations of interest: The general populations of the United States and Canada, and subpopulations identified as at-risk in both countries (i.e., pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals, and the elderly population);
  • Endpoint of concern: Invasive listeriosis; and
  • Risk metric: The probability of invasive listeriosis per soft-ripened cheese serving.

Health organizations are particularly worried about the condition’s debilitating affect (80 percent hospital rate, 20 percent fatality rate) combined with its ability to be spread by manufacturers far and wide. A listeria outbreak in 2012 due to a brand of delicate queso, ricotta slata cheese, became the ninth largest multi-state food poisoning outbreak that year, with 22 people nationwide falling ill, four of whom died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in September. [Refer to Figure 1 for outbreak location specifics and general outbreak breadth.]

Figure 1: 2012 Listeria Outbreak Spans Nation

All information and data courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Presentation by PhysBizTech.

And the housing of listeria doesn’t end on a cheese platter. Currently, sprout and seafood products are also being re-called out due to their contamination. [Refer to Figure 2 for a list of the latest recalled products.]

Figure 2: Total Recall

Product Company Locations Affected

4-ounce Whole Catch Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon (Lot Code: 7425A2298B; effective on Jan. 29)

Whole Foods Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Massachusettes, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Utah
Cold Smoked Salmon lox trim (PLU 97629; effective on products sold before Jan. 29, 2013) Whole Foods Washington, Oregon
Bagel, Whole and Half, with Lox Cream Cheese w/Capers (PLU 98437 and PLU 92811; effective on products sold before Jan. 29, 2013) Whole Foods Washington, Oregon
Gravlox Cream Cheese Spread (PLU 95307; effective on products sold before Jan. 29, 2013) Whole Foods Washington, Oregon
Gold Coast Crab Spread (UPC 83355500325; effective on products with an expiration date of Jan. 31, 2013) GIANT and MARTINS Pennsylvania
Organic Pea Shoots (SKU 92756; effective on products labeled as used best before Feb. 16, 2013) Trader Joe's Washington, Oregon
Sprouts: 3- Bean Munchie, Alfalfa, Bean, Broccoli, Clover, Deli, Brocco Sandwich sprouts, Spicy, Wheatgrass and Pea Shoots (Effective on products labeled as best used before Feb. 16, 2013)

Sprouters Northwest

Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia

All information and data courtesy of company releases. Presentation by PhysBizTech.

Alongside providing informative materials to patients and coworkers/staff, physicians are urged to comment on the QRA to help the FDA and Health Canada better the following:

  • the approach used;
  • the assumptions made;
  • the modeling techniques;
  • the data used; and
  • the clarity and transparency of the draft quantitative risk assessment documentation.

Click here and navigate to FDA-2012-N-1182 to comment electronically; the response period opened on Feb. 11 and will remain accessible for 75 days.

Image courtesy of Nathan Reading via Creative Commons licensing.