Getting Answers: listeria outbreak tied to deli meats, cheese
CHICOPEE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - There’s a warning in the Bay State about a deadly listeria outbreak linked to deli meat and cheese.
“What makes listeria problematic is that it can grow at the temperatures that we store food in the refrigerator,” said Dr. Megan Gallagher, an infectious disease doctor at Baystate Medical Center.
Gallagher told us when food is reheated to a high enough temperature, the listeria is typically eliminated and since many people don’t heat up deli meats and cheeses, the risk is higher for the bacteria to remain.
“It can enter the body, it could cause a blood stream infection…and what is really dangerous there is that it can go to the brain and cause a type of meningitis and, in some cases, even brain abscesses,” Gallagher noted.
Typical symptoms of listeria include stomach pain, cramping, and diarrhea. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases where at least 13 people have been hospitalized and one woman has lost her unborn child.
“It can cause really devastating infections, especially in the third trimester, that lead to still birth or babies being born with very severe infections and sepsis,” Gallagher added.
We visited to Arnold’s Meats in Chicopee and spoke owner Larry Katz to find out how they prevent an outbreak from happening in their store.
“We are a federally inspected meat plant, so we have a federal meat inspector here six days a week, for the six days we are open. By being federally inspected, we have to separate cook product from raw product.”
Katz said they built a separate room in their deli, so there can be no cross contamination. They also have a strict cleaning routine to protect against the growth and spread of bacteria.
“Every morning before we start, we have an acid spray that we wash the entire deli room with. The saws, the knives, the walls, the ceiling, the floor and then we do it again before they close at 4 o’clock,” Katz explained.
When buying deli meats in the future, Katz said it is important to buy from stores that have strict protocols.
“For me, I know that I feel very content knowing what we are doing is everything possible,” Katz said.
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