Published On: Tue, Jun 4th, 2013

Pregnant women and older adults most susceptible to listeria food poisoning:CDC

The June 2013 edition of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vital Signs was published today. The topic was Listeria food poisoning. In addition, listeria food poisoning was the topic of a CDC telebriefing piggybacking on the release of Vital Signs as experts in the field discussed this dangerous food borne illness, according to the CDC briefing June 4.



In Vital Signs, a few key factoids are presented, for example–about 1,600 people in the US get sick from Listeria germs each year. Also it states Listeria is the 3rd leading cause of death from food poisoning.

Finally, it says at least 90% of people who get Listeria infections are either pregnant women and their newborns, people 65 or older, or people with weakened immune systems.

Listen to the telebriefing here

CDC Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, picked up on that last point in the press briefing saying, “Listeria strikes particularly hard at people who can’t fight it off.  It causes things like blood infection, meningitis and miscarriage in pregnant women.  It can cause serious infections with very high rates of hospitalization and death.”

He goes on to point out some of the findings in Vital Signs: “Today’s Vital Signs report is a national snapshot of the years 2009 to 2011, looking at the rates of disease as well as the foods associated with listeria infections and the outbreaks that we at CDC and our state and local partners investigated.

“The key findings include, first, that people age 65 and older are four times more likely to get listeria.  Second, that pregnant women are ten times more likely to get listeria and pregnant Hispanic women 24 times more likely.

“We looked at 12 outbreaks that made more than 200 people in 38 states sick.  Of the ten outbreaks that we could find a food source for, six were linked to cheese and two to raw produce.  In the six outbreaks linked to cheese, five were linked to soft cheeses, which had been made from pasteurized milk that was likely contaminated during the process of making cheese.  Four of these were Mexican-style cheese, queso fresco.

“The two raw products outbreaks were the whole cantaloupe infections and the pre-cut celery, not usually linked with listeria.”

Read related “Outbreak News” at The Global Dispatch

Undersecretary for Food Safety at the USDA,  Dr.  Elisabeth Hagen talked about the prevention of listeriosis. “It [Listeria] has a very high hospital rate and the highest mortality rate among food-borne illnesses.  All these illnesses and deaths are preventable.  Developing preventive based policies first requires an understanding of the problem at hand.

“We can prevent illnesses and save lives by taking some simple steps”, she said. “Controlling temperatures in the deli case and putting in measures to prevent cross contamination can have a really powerful impact to public health.”

Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine at the FDA, Mr. Michael Taylor discussed the Food Safety Modernization Act briefly. “We’ve really got to look across the food system so the Food Safety Modernization Act, which the president signed into law in 2011, mandates that FDA establish standards for safe produce growing, operations on the farm, packing operations, and also modern prevention measures in food processing facilities all aimed at ensuring that in situations where listeria or other hazards are reasonably foreseeable, we’re putting in place modern, preventive requirements that will ensure that firms are doing the right preventive things to reduce the risk of these illnesses.”

He continues, “It’s a system that make people sick.  It’s a system problem, it’s a system challenge, and we think the Food Safety Modernization Act will go a long way to establishing a system that can prevent these illnesses in the future.”

The newly published Vital Signs discusses the challenges of Listeria, Listeria prevention and what can be done by government at all levels, the food industry, health providers and the general public can do to minimize the risk and effects of this serious pathogen.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. Understand Proper Food Safety Principles to Avoid Food Poisoning | eHow Tos says:

    […] Pregnant women and older adults most susceptible to listeria food poisoning:CDC […]

  2. Foodborne Bug Still Small but Deadly Threat – MedPage Today | Weight Loss Diet Plan says:

    […] pregnant women, babies most at risk of ListeriaUPI.comU.S. News & World Report -The Global Dispatch -Healioall 10 news […]

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