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October 17, 2012 / Kendra Lounsberry

Listeria Outbreak Leads to Lawsuit Against Importer of Contaminated Cheese

New York-based Forever Cheese, an importer of European cheeses, has been sued after public health officials confirmed that their Frescolina Ricotta Salata cheese was the source of a Listeria outbreak that has affected over a dozen individuals.  Of the 18 reported cases, six occurred in pregnant women, killing one fetus, and two newborns were diagnosed as well.

The lawsuit, brought by plaintiff Merrill West Behnke, alleges that she ate the contaminated ricotta salata on August 25, and three short days later was already sick and showing symptoms of a Listeria infection.  When her symptoms, including headaches, severe neck and back pain, and a 102 fever worsened the next day, her husband took her to an urgent care clinic.  After a lumbar puncture and CT scan, Behnke was diagnosed with meningitis.  She was admitted to the hospital and one week into her stay, doctors tested the serum from her initial lumbar puncture and discovered the Listeria infection.  Behnke spent most of her two week hospital stay in the intensive care unit as her doctors tried to find the right medications for her.  She was not discharged until September 13, 2012, and even then had to continue six daily doses of antibiotics. Public health investigators have been conducting diagnostic testing to determine which reported Listeria cases are linked to the Forever Cheese outbreak.

Listeria is a serious bacterial infection that is usually caused by eating contaminated food.  Symptoms of Listeria usually include a fever and muscle aches, and sometimes include diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems.  Even when a patient is promptly treated for Listeria, the infection can still result in death.  Although Forever Cheese recalled the contaminated cheese on September 10, 2012, more cases could be discovered over the next few months because there are often lapses between eating the contaminated food, showing symptoms of Listeria, and reporting illness.

If you believe that you have eaten a contaminated food product that resulted in Listeria or other illness, contact Khorrami, LLP for a confidential consultation.

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