Rhode Island investigating Listeria cases; consumers warned against use of unpasteurized products

Rhode Island investigating Listeria cases; consumers warned against use of unpasteurized products


As the Rhode Island Department of Health continues to investigate two cases of Listeria recently reported in the state, officials are urging residents, and particularly pregnant women, not to eat queso fresco or other cheese products made with unpasteurized milk.

“Queso fresco is a type of soft cheese,” department spokesman Joseph Wendelken said. “Queso fresco, queso blanco, panela, and asadero-style cheeses are only considered safe when they are marked with a professional label stating that they are ‘pasteurized’ or ‘made from pasteurized milk.’”

Homemade queso fresco is sometimes made with unpasteurized milk, which is otherwise known as “raw milk.” Officials said the unpasteurized milk can cause serious illness including Listeria because it has not undergone the pasteurization process designed to destroys bacterium that can make people sick.

Pregnant women are significantly more likely than other people to get listeria, the department warns. Among pregnant women, the highest rates of Listeria are seen among Hispanic women and Listeria during pregnancy can result in the mother passing the infection to her unborn baby. Listeria can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, and impairments of newborns.

Listeria can develop within a few days or even weeks after eating contaminated food. Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. If the infection spreads to the nervous system, headaches, a stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur. Pregnant women may experience mild flu-like symptoms or may not feel sick at all, yet the infection can still severely affect their unborn babies.

Anyone who has consumed queso fresco with unpasteurized milk and who experiences any of these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider right away, Wendelken said..

— Sun staff

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