Atalanta Corporation, a New Jersey food distributor, has recalled its "Nazareth Classic" and "Nazareth Light" cheeses because during quality control checks they were found to contain listeria monocytogenes, an organism that can cause fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, stiffness and severe headaches. These symptoms are usually self-limiting and healthy people fully recover.
The organism is more dangerous to pregnant women as it can cause miscarriages and stillbirth.
It can also cause severe and even fatal infections like meningitis and blood poisoning in people who are immune-compromised, elderly and frail or newborn babies. People who are taking medications that depress immune function, such as cortisone steroids, are also at increased risk of severe infections and death. The mortality rate for "at risk" groups is around 30 percent.
Infected people can excrete listeria in their feces for several months after infection.
The cheeses were sold in Northeastern retail stores and labels read Nazareth Classic and Nazareth Light “imported by Atalanta Corp”. The affected lots are 5030008, 5030009, 11350044, 11350045, 11350046, 10840120 and are marked with expiration dates of 3/13/2011 through 7/29/2011.
Customers who have any affected product should not eat it and return it to the place of purchase for a refund. Customers with questions can call the company on 908-351-8000 for more information.
Sources: FDA Press Release, 20th May 2011
Victorian Government Health Information, Infectious Diseases (Australia) - http://www.health.vic.gov.au/ideas/diseases/listeria_facts
Reviewed May 25, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton