What is listeria? Food safety experts warn about contaminated desserts and cheese

Thousands of Cadbury products have been recalled at major supermarkets over fears they could be contaminated by listeria bacteria.

The products being pulled from shelves are Cadbury dessert pots made by dairy and milk supplier Müller.

As well as the desserts, Capricorn and Co-op goats’ cheese have also been recalled.

Previously, food safety experts issued a warning over other contaminated cheese after a Briton died and two became unwell from listeria.

But what exactly is listeria, how serious is it, and how can you treat it?

Here is everything we know.

What Cadbury products have been recalled?

Müller said the following items have been recalled as a precautionary measure and only the below use-by dates are affected.

The products being recalled are:

  • Cadbury Crunchie Chocolate Dessert 75g — May 17, 2023

  • Cadbury Flake Chocolate Dessert 75g — May 17, 2023

  • Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons Chocolate Dessert 75g — May 18, 2023

  • Cadbury Dairy Milk Chunks Chocolate Dessert 75g — May 18, 2023

  • Cadbury Heroes Chocolate Dessert 6x75g — May 18, 2023

  • Cadbury Daim Chocolate Dessert 75g — May 18, 2023

Have any other products been contaminated?

Listeria has also been found in goats’ cheese and Lactalis UK & Ireland has urgently recalled the affected products.

The Cricket St Thomas Capricorn Goats Cheese, Somerset Capricorn Goats Cheese, and Co-op Goats Cheese products should be returned to supermarkets over possible listeria contamination.

Lactalis said in a statement about the cheese: “The health risk to the public remains low and individuals should only seek medical attention if they develop symptoms.

“If you have purchased the above products with a Use by Date of 26 May 2023, do not eat them, instead return them to the store where you bought them for a full refund.

“We apologise that it has been necessary to recall this product, and for the inconvenience caused.”

What is listeriosis?

Listeriosis is a rare infection caused by listeria and it is usually caught from eating food that contains the bacteria.

It mainly occurs in chilled ready-to-eat foods deli foods, such as smoked fish and shellfish, sliced meats, soft cheeses, sandwiches, fruit, and unpasteurised milk.

What are the symptoms of listeriosis?

Listeriosis doesn’t always cause symptoms but, when it does, they include a high temperature of 38°C or above, aches and pains, chills, feeling or being sick, and diarrhoea.

These symptoms usually last a few days.

Is listeriosis serious?

Listeriosis isn’t always serious, but some people are at a higher risk of developing serious problems, such as meningitis and life-threatening sepsis.

These at-risk groups include pregnant women, newborn babies, people aged 65 or over, people with a weakened immune system, and those with uncontrolled diabetes.

When to seek treatment for listeriosis

People in the aforementioned at-risk groups should contact the NHS on 111 if they think they have listeriosis.

They should call 999 or go to A&E if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • have a severe headache and stiff neck

  • find it uncomfortable to look at bright lights

  • have a fit (seizures)

  • feel suddenly confused

  • feel very sleepy or difficult to wake

  • have a rash that does not fade when a glass is rolled over it — the rash may be blotchy, like bruises or small, red pinpricks

These could be symptoms of meningitis caused by listeriosis.

For further information, visit the NHS site.