To date there have been at least 3 deaths related to the latest Listeriosis outbreak in Australia. Apparently around 23 people are sick and one women has miscarried as a result of having the illness.
Listeriosis is an illness resulting from a food poisoning caused by a member of the Listeria group of bacteria. The particular species that is of main concern is Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause spontaneous miscarriages.
This bacteria is what is known as a facultative anaerobe, which means that even though it can grow in a normal oxygen environment, it really prefers an environment that has higher carbon dioxide levels. This means that foods that have been vacuum packed have a perfect environment for this bacteria.
It is also very comfortable growing at colder temperatures than most other food poisoning bacteria, so the vacuum packed deli items and cheeses are prime products for the growth of Listeria monocytogenes.
It is due to this bacteria specifically, that cheesemakers in this country are prevented from producing cheese with unpasteurized milk. It has also stopped the import of most unpasteurized milk cheeses from overseas. These people and others around the world believe that cheese tastes better when made form unpasteurized milks but to protect the population, food law prevents it.
This bacteria is responsible for potentially half of all the microbiological product recalls in Australia. It is a dangerous bacteria and we have laws to protect us from it, as long as these requirements are followed.
Listeria monocytogenes can also be extremely difficult to clean out of a food business once it takes hold, so it is considered to be a major pathogen in this and most other countries.
For more information about Listeria go to http://www.about-listeria.com/