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Rhode Island DOH Issues Alert on Deli Sliced Meat & Cheese Due to Potential Listeria

The Rhode Island Department of Health has issued a consumer alert regarding deli sliced meat and cheese sold at a local Stop & Shop due to potential Listeria contamination.

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has put out a consumer alert for deli sliced meat and cheese served at a Stop & Shop located in Warwick, Rhode Island, because the products may potentially be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

“This alert pertains to deli sliced meat and cheese sold between January 18th and February 2nd,” the alert states. “Customers who purchased deli sliced meat and cheese at this store during this period should discard these products and bring their receipts to Stop & Shop for full refunds.”

The RIDOH did not share how the risk was discovered, but they did share that the deli has temporarily been closed for professional cleaning; the rest of the store has remained open. As of the posting of the alert, no associated illnesses have been reported.

Although the RIDOH did not include this in the alert that on January 18th, a state inspector reportedly found health code violations involving slicers at the Stop & Shop deli, according to Food Safety News.

“[An] inspector observed an employee spray sanitizer on a slicer and then wipe the slicer down with a paper towel. [The] inspector asked the employee for the sanitizer label with directions and reviewed the sanitizing process,” the news source quotes the inspection report. “The deli slicer is in poor repair; a seal was cracked. [The] deli slicer was taken out of service during the inspection.”

This is not uncommon; many inspectors have discovered retail deli slicers that were not up to par in terms of proper sanitization. In fact, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Recent outbreaks of food-borne illness have been associated with the build-up of food soils and disease-causing microorganisms on areas of deli slicers that are difficult to clean and sanitize.” Some key areas of concern on these slicers include the ring guard mount, the blade guard, and the slicer handle.

Therefore, the FDA has come up with a handful of recommendations to stay on top of the issue. These include:

  • Cleaning and sanitizing the slicers per the manufacturer’s instructions at least once every 4 hours to prevent the growth of bacteria
  • Careful examination of the seams, seals, and gaskets “to confirm integrity” of the seals before breaking down the equipment for cleaning and sanitization. Remember to check out areas that are particularly hard to reach for any food accumulation.
  • If any seals or gaskets are broken, missing, unattached, defective, or not working as they should be, the slicer should be removed from service immediately. The manufacturer of the slicer should be contacted either for repair or replacement.
  • The slicer should be professionally serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended schedule.

About 1600 individuals fall ill with listeriosis each year and approximately 260 individuals will die from the infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A recent report which aimed to shed light on the types of food that contribute to food-borne illnesses found that Listeria illnesses were most often linked with fruits and dairy products. In fact, one of the most recent outbreaks of listeriosis was linked to soft raw milk cheese made by Vulto Creamery. The outbreak spanned 4 US states—New York, Florida, Connecticut, and Vermont—and included 8 infected individuals; all required hospitalization for their illness and 2 of them died. Needless to say, Listeria infection is serious.

The clinical features of listeriosis depend on the patient, according to the CDC. Those with normal immune systems do not normally experience invasive infection; however, they can “experience self-limited acute febrile gastroenteritis following high-dose Listeria exposure.”

When looking at adults or immunocompromised individuals, the most common clinical presentations can include sepsis, meningitis, and other invasive infections. These individuals can also experience focal infections, like septic arthritis, osteomyelitis, prosthetic graft infections, and “infections of sites inside the chest and abdomen or of the skin and eye.

For information on managing high-risk patients—women who are pregnant, older adults, individuals with weakened immune systems—the CDC has a framework for assessment and medical treatment available.