Frozen corn
Dreamstime

Deadly Listeriosis Outbreak Linked to Frozen Corn

The illness has killed six people and sickened 32 in 5 European countries
Frozen corn
Dreamstime

Frozen corn is suspected to be the cause of a multi-country listeriosis outbreak. 

A deadly listeriosis outbreak in Europe that has sickened at least 32 people and killed six of them has finally been traced back to its most likely source: investigators say that frozen corn is probably responsible.

According to Food Safety News, the listeriosis outbreak began in December 2015, and since then it has affected people in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Listeriosis is a dangerous food-borne illness caused by eating food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Symptoms include fever, aches, nausea, and diarrhea, and the condition is especially dangerous for newborns, small children, the elderly, people who are pregnant, and those with impaired immune systems.

Listeriosis has a long incubation period, and it can be two months or more before an infected person starts showing symptoms, which means outbreaks can be difficult to track back to the source of contamination. Authorities were able to trace this instance through whole genome sequencing, determining the complete DNA sequence of the bacteria in question. 

According to the European Food Safety Authority and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the outbreak is likely connected with frozen corn that was produced in Hungary and packed in Poland, and it reportedly not related to the ongoing outbreak in South Africa that has killed nearly 200 people since 2017. The bacteria that causes listeriosis was responsible for one of the biggest food recalls of 2017.

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