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Deli Meat and Cheese Linked to Listeria Outbreak

An array of deli meats and cheeses.
Credit: Pixabay.

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Deli meat and cheese purchased at deli counters in multiple states have been identified as the likely sources of this outbreak of Listeria in the US.

Listeria in Deli Meat and Cheese

Deli meats (cold cuts, lunch meats, hot dogs, and pâtés sold at the deli) and cheeses are known sources of Listeria illnesses. This is because Listeria can easily spread among food on deli countertops, deli slicers, surfaces, and hands. Listeria is a hardy germ that can be difficult to fully remove once it is in the deli. It can survive and grow at cold temperatures in the refrigerator.

Source of the Outbreak

Information collected so far shows that deli meat and cheese purchased at deli counters in multiple states are the likely sources of this outbreak.


It is difficult for investigators to identify a single food as the source of outbreaks linked to deli meats and cheeses. This is because Listeria spreads easily between food and the deli environment and can persist for a long time in deli display cases and on equipment. A contaminated food likely introduced the outbreak strain of Listeria into delis in multiple states. Investigators are working to identify any specific products or delis that may be contaminated with the outbreak strain.


What People at High Risk Should Do


You are at higher risk for severe Listeria illness if you are pregnant, aged 65 or older, or have a weakened immune system due to certain medical conditions or treatments. If you are not in these groups, you are unlikely to get very sick from Listeria. If you are at higher risk:


  • Do not eat meat or cheese from any deli counter, unless it is reheated to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot.
  • This is because Listeria can grow on foods kept in the refrigerator, but it is easily killed by heating food to a high enough temperature.
  • Clean your refrigerator, containers, and surfaces that may have touched deli meat or cheese from the deli.
  • Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any symptoms of severe Listeria illness after eating meat or cheese from a deli:    
    - People who are not pregnant may experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches.
    - Pregnant people usually experience only fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. However, Listeria can cause pregnancy loss or premature birth. It can also cause serious illness or death in newborns.


What Businesses Should Do


Follow USDA-FSIS best practices for controlling Listeria contamination in deli areas.


About Listeria


  • Listeria can cause severe illness (known as invasive listeriosis) when the bacteria spread beyond the gut to other parts of the body.
  • Almost all severe illnesses from Listeria result in hospitalizations and sometimes death.
  • Symptoms of severe illness usually start within 2 weeks after eating food contaminated with Listeria, but may start as early as the same day or as late as 10 weeks after.
  • People who are not pregnant may experience headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches.
  • Pregnant people usually experience only fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. However, Listeria can cause pregnancy loss or premature birth. It can also cause serious illness or death in newborns.
  • Pregnant people and their newborns, adults 65 years or older, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness.
  • Other people can be infected with Listeria, but they usually get mild food poisoning symptoms, like diarrhea and fever, and usually recover without treatment.
  • For more information about Listeria, see the Listeria Questions and Answers page.

    This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.


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