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14 Sickened, 3 Dead From Listeria in Ricotta Salata Cheese

Death by mild cheese. Although it almost sounds like an impossibility, it’s the most recent devastating outbreak of foodborne illness sweeping the country.

According to a recent report by MSNBC, at least three people are dead among 14 people sickened in 11 states by an outbreak of listeria food poisoning linked to contaminated ricotta salata cheese.

Listeria Monocytogenes is a potentially deadly type of food poisoning bacteria that causes a condition called Listerosis. Listeriosis affects mainly pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and adults with lowered immune system, and when pregnant women are infected with Listeria Monocytogenes the infection can result in premature delivery, miscarriages, or stillbirth. Additionally, if a pregnant woman is exposed to contaminated food during pregnancy, the child can be born with Listeriosis.

According to a report published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Biology, though Lysteria is a fairly uncommon disease, when a severe form of the infection takes hold, the case fatality rate may approach as much as 25% (Salmonella poisoning, in comparison, has a mortality rate estimated at less than 1%).

Symptoms of Listerosis include fever, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea, and other flu-like symptoms. If the bacteria are allowed to spread to the central nervous system, the individual may experience symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or even convulsions.

The infected cheese in question, Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese, is a salty white cheese made from pasteurized sheep’s milk, and is often served crumbed or grated as an ingredient in salads, pastas and other dishes, said MSNBC. It is not the same as ricotta cheese, a very soft cheese sold in plastic tubs and used for dishes such as lasagna.

MSNBC reports that the cheese was sold to distributors for retail stores and restaurants in 18 states, including Illinois, between June 20 and Aug. 9. As a result, because the cheese may still be in home refrigerators, consumers should check for the product and discard it immediately.

Food distributers like Frescolina have a duty to sell reasonably safe food, and are responsible for products they disseminate to the public. When those products cause illness, injury, or death, the companies are liable for the harm caused. Individuals who suffer serious personal injury, hospitalization, or even death due to food poisoning may be able to seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages.

Furthermore, in Illinois wrongful death cases such as ones that could potentially arise from this situation as a result of the three deaths, family members can file claims to potentially make the wrongdoer pay damages for things such as the loss of companionship, monetary damages to cover the earnings the deceased person would have provided, and expenses associated with the death such as funeral and burial costs, as well as having to experience grief and sorrow as a result of losing a loved one.

According to 2010 estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 48 million people are sickened each year by a foodborne illness; of those, more than 125,000 people require hospitalization and 3,000 die after consuming contaminated fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and processed foods in their homes or in restaurants. Food poisoning illnesses may be common, but they have the potential to be devastating. Our Illinois personal injury lawyers have experience representing clients in similar cases, including a $4 million settlement for three convention attendees who contracted salmonella poisoning that caused them to suffer crippling arthritic injuries.

A doctor will be able to determine if you have been infected by a foodborne illness. If you or a loved one have suffered as a result of contaminated food, either from a restaurant or a retail store, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.