Pregnant Women at Risk of Listeria Due to Raw Milk Cheese

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Raw Milk Cheese

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is urging all women to avoid eating queso fresco made with unpasteurized milk (raw milk) due to a current investigation of two Listeria cases.

According to the RIDOH press release, “quesco fresco, queso blanco, panela, and asadero-style cheeses are only considered safe when they are marked with a professional label stating that they are ‘pasteurized’ or ‘made from pasteurized milk.’”

While RIDOH did not include any information regarding the victims in the two cases, they did specifically urge pregnant women to avoid the food product due to pregnant women being “significantly more likely” to get listeria than anyone else. If infected, listeria can be passed from a pregnant woman to their unborn baby and cause impairments of newborns, miscarriages and stillbirths. In addition, among pregnant women, RIDOH stated, Hispanic women are at the highest risk to receive the bacteria.

Listeria can be present in raw milk as well as foods that are made with raw milk. The bacteria is killed by cooking and the process of pasteurization. Listeria can survive and even grow in the cold temperatures of refrigeration. Symptoms of Listeria include chills, diarrhea, fever, muscle aches and nausea. The RIDOH also warns, “If the infection spreads to the nervous system, headaches, a stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, or convulsions can occur.” Pregnant women can also experience symptoms which mimic the flu or may not have any symptoms at all.

While pregnant women are at a higher risk, children, adults and the elderly can also become infected.

If anyone has consumed soft cheese, particularly queso fresco with unpasteurized milk, and has started to experience symptoms, a healthcare provider should be contacted immediately. Listeria can take days and sometimes even weeks after consumption to develop.

Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 9/14/2017

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