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The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service Alert: DION'S PIZZA

The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a public health alert and identified Dion's restaurants and their parent company, Peter DeFries Corporation, as a potential source of food contaminated with the Listeria bacteria after a routine inspection found Listeria bacteria on food preparation equipment at the Peter DeFries Corporation food processing facility.

According to the report issued by the FSIS, ham, turkey, roast beef, and pastrami served by the Albuquerque-based restaurant chain on pizzas, salads, and open-faced sandwiches may be tainted by the Listeria bacteria. Dion's has 23 dining establishments in New Mexico, Texas and Colorado. The department warned that meat sliced between December 14, 2016 through December 29, 2016 and served at Dion's between December 14, 2016 and possibly as late as January 4, 2017 may be tainted by the Listeria bacteria. Patrons who consumed the sliced meat prepared and served during that timeframe remain at risk for Listeria infection. The FSIS is urging consumers who purchased the potentially contaminated sliced meat not to consume it.

Any person consuming products containing sliced meats subject to the alert purchased at Dion's Deli was potentially infected with the Listeria bacteria and should be vigilant in monitoring for symptoms of Listeria as the incubation time for infection may be up to 70 days long.

In a January 8, 2017 news release, Dion's stated that no food products they have tested positive for contamination, but it discovered the “potential problem” during internal equipment testing. However, both on Facebook and the FSIS website, several Dion's restaurant patrons report that they became ill after eating at Dion's over the holiday season. The news release further states that the possibly tainted meats was sliced between December 14, 2016 through December 29, 2016 and shipped to stores in New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado. The news release does not provide details regarding the timeframe within which the potentially tainted meat was served or whether or not the potentially tainted meat was shipped to some or all of their restaurants.

Consumers with concerns about the alert can contract Dion's directly by calling 505-515-2660.

Consumers with food safety questions can call the FSIS' virtual assistant "Karen," who is available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. The online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/reportproblem.

What is Listeriosis?

Listeriosis is caused by the consumption of food contaminated by the human pathogen L. Monocytogenes. Listeria is a hardy bacteria that can survive and grow in temperatures from 4°C (39.2°F) to 37°C (98.6°F) which means that even refrigerated food can be contaminated with Listeria. While the bacteria cannot survive proper cooking, it can contaminate meat that has been cooked but not yet packaged through contact with contaminated surfaces in the processing facility. The bacteria can be transmitted to the cooked meat through contact with a worker's hands, slicers, conveyor belts, tables and any other surface where the hardy bacteria may have been deposited.

Non-invasive Listeriosis is confined to the digestive system and will generally result in mild symptoms which are not life threatening though pregnant woman who have been infected with Listeria should immediately seek medical attention as Listeria can result in extremely serious health risks, outlined below, for the fetus.

Invasive Listeriosis occurs when the bacteria escapes the digestive tract and invades the bloodstream and central nervous system. Invasive Listeria is far more dangerous and can be fatal.

Listeria's incubation period is between 3 and 70 days long. A person who has ingested Listeria bacteria will have symptoms that include fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. If the bacteria infects the brain, symptoms may include headache, stiffness of the neck, mental confusion, loss of balance, and convulsion. If the infection is not controlled, very serious health consequences can include sepsis and meningitis. Meningitis is often complicated by encephalitis and is known as meningoencephalitis.

The invasive form of the infection, Listeroisis, has a fatality rate of 20% to 25%. Listeria bacteria is found in soil and can be transmitted by contaminated vegetables and uncooked meat. The bacteria is also spread through contaminated dairy products especially raw and unpasteurized milk and cheeses. The contamination can occur after cooking and before packaging so foods like deli meat, hot dogs and other pre-packaged cooked foods can contain the bacteria. As such, food processors must strictly conform to sanitation procedures to prevent contamination as the food can be contaminated after it is cooked but before it is packaged.

Who is most at risk for developing Listeriosis?

Those most at risk for developing invasive Listeriosis are pregnant women, newborns, adults with AIDS or weakened immune systems, and the elderly. If a pregnant woman is infected with Listeria bacteria, the bacteria can be transmitted to the fetus through the placenta. The resulting infection can result in stillbirth, preterm labor, newborn sepsis and meningitis. It is critical that even a non-invasive exposure be treated by antibiotics to protect the fetus from the infection especially when the pregnancy is in its third trimester.

What is the treatment for infection with the Listeria bacteria?

If the bacteria remains within the digestive tract, it causes mild symptoms lasting only a few days. Muscle pain and fever in mild cases is treated with over the counter pain relievers. Diarrhea and gastroenteritis can also be treated with over the counter medications.

In invasive Listeriosis, the bacteria have spread to the bloodstream and central nervous system and that can result in a life threatening infection. Intravenous delivery of high doses of antibiotics and at least two weeks of hospital care will be required to combat the dangerous infection. Ampicillin, penicillin, or amoxicillin are preferred for battling invasive Listeriosis. For those with weakened immune systems, gentamicin is added to the antibiotic solution. Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, vancomycin, and fluoroquinolones can be used in cases of allergy to penicillin For pregnant women infected with the Listeria bacteria, it is critical that even a non-invasive exposure be treated by antibiotics to protect the fetus from the infection as the virus can migrate through the placenta and infect the fetus.

If you believe that you have been infected with Listeria bacteria, it is important to remain vigilant to symptoms of the disease and to immediately seek medical attention if you are a pregnant woman or a person who carries a higher risk of invasive infection due to age or a compromised immune system including persons infected with the AIDS virus.

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