Health officials in Oregon and Washington are warning against eating soft Mexican cheese products made by a Yakima company after a Washington resident was confirmed with listeriosis.
The affected products made by the Yakima-based Queseria Bendita are subject to a voluntary recall.
Health officials linked the illness of a pregnant woman in King County to cheese products contaminated with Listeria, a bacteria that can cause flu-like illness.
The products identified are Queso Fresco, Panela, and Requeson. The Queso Fresco is packaged in one- and three-pound vacuum packed wheels; the Panela is vacuum packed in one- and three-pound sizes; and the Requeson is packed in eight-ounce and one-pound clear plastic tubs, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Each cheese has a green label identifying the type of cheese, the Queseria Bendita brand name, and a date code up to and including "Apr 30 2010."
Samples taken from stores and from the plant confirmed the bacteria. The woman was ill in January and has since recovered. The baby was delivered without complications. However, the disease caused by Listeria can be very serious, health officials cautioned.
The Oregon state Department of Health said at least five listeriosis cases have been identified recently in Oregon and Washington. All five people had been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. Case investigations by public health agencies in both states identified Queseria Bendita cheese as a suspect, and subsequent testing of ready-to-eat products found matching organisms.
In Oregon, the recalled cheeses are sold primarily at Hispanic specialty markets in the greater Portland and Umatilla County areas, but may have been resold to Mexican restaurants or other outlets. In the Northwest, the cheeses are
Listeriosis is an infection that affects mostly older people, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. However, people without these risk factors can also be affected. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches and sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea.
If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance or convulsions can occur. Women infected during pregnancy may pass it to their babies, which can result in early delivery or stillbirth. Pregnant women and their newborns are 20 times more likely than healthy adults to get a Listeria infection.