Brit dies in listeria outbreak linked to contaminated cheese

One Brit has died from listeria in an outbreak linked to contaminated cheese, health chiefs announced today. 

Food safety watchdogs have issued an urgent warning over the potential risk posed by certain Baronet semi soft cheeses, some of which contain ‘exceptionally high levels’ of the bacteria.

More than a dozen of types have already been recalled over contamination fears.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) today urged the public not to eat any affected product, which are all made by Wiltshire-based firm The Old Cheese Room.

Food safety watchdogs have now issued an urgent warning over the potential risk posed by certain Baronet semi soft cheeses, some of which contain 'exceptionally high levels' of the bacteria Food safety watchdogs have now issued an urgent warning over the potential risk posed by certain Baronet semi soft cheeses, some of which contain 'exceptionally high levels' of the bacteria

Food safety watchdogs have now issued an urgent warning over the potential risk posed by certain Baronet semi soft cheeses, some of which contain ‘exceptionally high levels’ of the bacteria

Those who eat food containing listeria develop an infection called listeriosis, which can cause a fever, aches and pains, chills, nausea, sickness and diarrhoea Those who eat food containing listeria develop an infection called listeriosis, which can cause a fever, aches and pains, chills, nausea, sickness and diarrhoea

Those who eat food containing listeria develop an infection called listeriosis, which can cause a fever, aches and pains, chills, nausea, sickness and diarrhoea

Baronet is a pasteurised semi soft cheese with a pinkish orange rind and a pungent smell. 

It is sold in both small individual rounds and as 1kg wheels which may be cut down to order.

One recall is for the 1kg Baronet, priced at £32, with best before dates of March 21, March 22, April 11, April 12, April 16 and April 18, 2023.

The other two recalls are for the 270g Mini Baronet, costing £9 and 200g Baby Baronet.

The Mini Baronet is being recalled for three batches: March 22, April 10 and April 18, 2023.

What is listeriosis?

Most people that catch listeriosis, caused by bacteria called listeria, will only experience mild symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhoea.

Other symptoms of the infection can include a high temperature of 38C or above, aches and pains, and chills, according to the NHS.

However, more serious complications can develop in those with weakened immune systems, babies, the elderly and pregnant women.

Many foods can harbour listeria, but it is usually found in unpasteurised milk, soft cheeses and ready-to-eat foods, such as prepacked sandwiches. 

Listeria is widespread in the environment and can be found in raw food and soil, and in the droppings of many mammals, birds, and fish.

Around 120 cases of listeriosis are confirmed every year in England, according to figures. It strikes around 1,600 annually in the US.

HOW CAN YOU AVOID LISTERIOSIS?

  • wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • wash fruit and vegetables before eating them
  • store ready-to-eat foods as recommended by the manufacturer
  • make sure all hot food is steaming hot all the way through

The Baby Baronet is being recalled for batches, March 22, April 4, April 10 and April 16, 2023. 

The cheeses are sometimes served sliced from a deli counter.

Brits who believe they may have bought one of the affected Baronet items have been urged not to eat it and contact their retailer. 

They should also thoroughly clean any surfaces they may have touched to prevent cross-contamination of other foods. 

In the announcement today, the FSA and UKHSA said that they had detected three listeria cases ‘potentially linked to an outbreak’ and that one person had died.

They did not provide any further details on the fatality. 

All of those infected had a closely genetically related strain of listeria that has also been found in samples of Baronet cheese.

However, that does not necessarily mean that all those involved in the outbreak contracted listeriosis as a result of eating Baronet cheese. 

Listeria has also been found in samples taken from ‘food environments’, they said.

However, it is unclear where these are and officials insisted there is ‘no confirmation’ that Baronet is the cause of the outbreak.

Health chiefs are investigating the cause of the outbreak. 

Those who eat food containing listeria develop an infection called listeriosis, which can cause a fever, aches and pains, chills, nausea, sickness and diarrhoea.

While the bug usually goes away on its own, it can be serious among some groups, including pregnant women, newborn babies, over-65s, those with a weak immune system and those with diabetes.

These groups may need antibiotics to treat the infection.

Anyone who is unwell with listeriosis symptoms is advised to report their illness to their local authority.

Tina Potter, head of incidents at the FSA, said: ‘Due to this outbreak of listeria monocytogenes, we are urging consumers who are vulnerable to listeria infection – including people who are pregnant and people with weakened immune systems to ensure they follow the advice in the product recall notices, which details all of the products which may pose a risk. 

Food safety watchdogs have stuck a 'do not eat' alert out for the products made by The Old Cheese Room Food safety watchdogs have stuck a 'do not eat' alert out for the products made by The Old Cheese Room

Food safety watchdogs have stuck a ‘do not eat’ alert out for the products made by The Old Cheese Room

‘We are also asking people to make sure that elderly relatives who may have purchased the recalled items, and who are at particular risk, are aware of the recall and observe the advice.

‘Some foods carry a greater risk of listeria than others. These include soft cheeses, pate, smoked fish, chilled sliced meats and other chilled ready to eat products.’

According to the latest available data, a total of 124 cases of listeriosis were reported in England and Wales in 2020. 

Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 1,600 people get listeriosis each year.

The Old Cheese Room said the move was a ‘precautionary measure’.

It said: ‘Please do not consume these products. Check if you have bought the affected batch codes. 

‘Customers can contact us for a full refund (with or without a receipt).’

The cheesemaker said it has stopped making the cheese as it ‘seems a sensible decision not to make any until we have found the source of the issue’.

It added: ‘As a responsible cheesemaker we carry out regular cleaning, disinfecting and swab testing of our making and ripening rooms. 

‘We have now changed our monthly testing regime to positive release, this that we test every batch of cheese before it leaves our premises.’