November 12, 2014

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating a listeria monocytogenes outbreak caused by contaminated sprouts.

There have been five confirmed cases of listeriosis in the Chicago area between June and August. Two patients have died from the infection.

Despite issuing a recall in August, Chicago-based Wholesome Soy Products shut down its plant after an ongoing investigation by the FDA discovered more listeria contamination.

Listeriosis is a rare but serious illness that can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups. These groups include the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as cancer or diabetes). In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.

Wholesome Soy Products, a manufacturer of sprouts, tofu, and soy products issued a voluntary recall in August after a routine FDA inspection of mung bean sprouts, irrigation water and environmental samples tested positive for listeria.

Additional tests found a month later that the strain of listeria was genetically similar to the strain that caused illnesses in five people.

Wholesome Soy Products brought in a third-party to sanitize and test the facility, later reporting that samples from those tests came back negative. A follow-up inspection by the FDA, however, found the presence of the same strain of listeria that caused the earlier illnesses.

The company verbally agreed on Nov. 7 to shut down its facility and recall any remaining products on the market.

Consumers that believe they have purchased products from the company should dispose of them in the garbage. Since listeria can grow in refrigerator temperatures, refrigerators, food preparation surfaces and food cutting utensils that may have come in contact with the contaminated sprouts should be washed with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water.

More information about preventing listeriosis can be found on the CDC website.