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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Unpasteurized Raw Cheese Contaminated with Listeria Suspected in Baby Deaths in Washington

According to the Spokane Newspaper, Washington State health investigators are still attempting to solve several cases of food-borne infections that have caused several pregnant women to lose their babies since January. They suspect the women in Yakima, Klickitat and King counties ate unpasteurized cheese that was contaminated with listeria bacteria. Listeria is often found in soft cheeses such as Mexican-style queso fresco and queso Blanco, along with feta, brie, camembert, Roquefort and bleu. The Yakima Public Health Department reported last week that early laboratory results indicated that the listeria infections came from a common source.

Pregnant women and their newborns are 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to be infected. People with suppressed immune systems are also at risk of becoming seriously ill from listeria, which can result in bloodstream infections or meningitis. They should avoid foods such as raw milk and deli foods such as sandwich meats, salads and vegetables.

We represented a young couple who lost their baby due to unknowingly consuming unpasteurized cheese while in Canada a few years ago, See, "Woman who lost her baby to sue over bad cheese."  There have been other reported cases in the past – See, "Outbreak of Listeriosis among Mexican Immigrants as a Result of Consumption of Illicitly Produced Mexican-Style Cheese."  Washington State University has done some good work on trying to prevent these losses – See, "The Abuela Project: A Community Based Food Safety Intervention involving Queso Fresco, a Raw-Milk Cheese."