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Five sufferers in French Listeria epidemic linked to cheese alternative

A plant-based cheese brand has been linked to five serious Listeria infections in France.

The five cases of listeriosis include four pregnant women who gave birth prematurely. They were infected with the same type of Listeria and reported symptoms between April and December 2022.

Health officials said the patients had consumed products sold under the Jay & Joy brand in the weeks leading up to their illness. The company makes cheese alternatives with organic almond and cashew milk.

Santé Publique France, the National Reference Center (CNR) for Listeria, the Directorate General for Food (DGAL), the Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF) and the Directorate General for Health (DGS) are involved in the investigation into the epidemic.

Control and recall measures
An inspection revealed “irregularities” in the company, especially on controls to manage the risk of microbiological contamination of products made in the factory. The authorities have suspended the marketing of all products stored and manufactured on the site. Epidemiological and microbiological investigations are underway.

Jay & Joy has issued a withdrawal and recall notice for all products with dates between January 14 and March 30, 2023. Distributors include Biocoop, Naturalia, Relais Vert, Vita Frais, Natureco and Effegi. Officials have asked people not to consume these products and to return the items to the place of sale.

The distribution of the affected products also includes Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, according to a notification on the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) platform.

The company recalled a product in France in April 2022 due to Listeria. In July, Jay & Joy issued a recall in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands due to potential Listeria contamination, and another recall for Listeria was carried out in August in Belgium.

About Listeria
Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell bad, but it can still cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections. Anyone who has eaten any recalled product and has developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical attention and inform their doctors of possible exposure to Listeria.

Additionally, anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products should monitor themselves for food poisoning symptoms in the coming weeks because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria before symptoms of listeriosis develop.

Symptoms of Listeria infection can include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, body aches, severe headache, and neck stiffness. Specific laboratory tests are needed to diagnose Listeria infections, which can mimic other diseases.

Pregnant women, the elderly, young children, and people like cancer patients who have weakened immune systems are especially at risk of serious illness, life-threatening infections, and other complications. Although infected pregnant women may experience only mild flu-like symptoms, their infections can lead to premature birth, infection of the newborn, or even fetal death.

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