1985 California listeriosis outbreak in cheese

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Queso Fresco Mexicano.jpg

The 1985 California listeria outbreak was in Mexican style soft cheese made by Jalisco in California. There were 52 confirmed deaths, including 19 stillbirths and 10 infant deaths.[1][2] At the time, it was the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in the United States, measured by the number of deaths, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had begun tracking outbreaks in the 1970s.[1]


Alta Dena supplied the raw milk to Jalisco to make the soft Mexican-style cheese in 1985.[3] Jalisco had a non-licensed technician perform the pasteurization.[3] Pasteurized milk might have been diluted with non-pasteurized milk by the technician.[4]

The cheese caused 142 cases of listeriosis in 1985, including 52 fatalities.[1][5]

On July 15, 1989 Alta Dena was absolved of any blame.[5]


  1. ^ a b c William Neuman (September 27, 2011). "Deaths From Cantaloupe Listeria Rise". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-29. The deadliest outbreak in the United States since then occurred in 1985, when a wave of listeria illness, linked to Mexican-style fresh cheese, swept through California. A federal database says 52 deaths were attributed to the outbreak, but news reports at the time put the number as high as 84. ...
  2. ^ Segal, Marian (1988). "Invisible villains; tiny microbes are biggest food hazard". FDA Consumer. Summer 1985: In Southern California, the largest number of food poisoning deaths recorded in recent U.S. history is traced to Mexican-style soft chesse. Of the 142 reported cases, there were 47 deaths, including 19 stillbirths and 10 infant deaths. The killer -- Listeria monocytogenes.
  3. ^ a b "Witnesses Clash Over Blame For Deaths From Bad Cheese". Associated Press in the New York Times. July 12, 1989. Retrieved 2011-10-04. Alta-Dena, the largest dairy in California, supplied the raw milk to Jalisco to make the soft Mexican-style cheese, which was blamed for the outbreak of the severe, flu-like bacterial disease.
  4. ^ Lawrence K. Altman (July 2, 1985). "Cheese Microbe Underscores Mystery". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-10. In the California outbreak, there have been conflicting reports about the adequacy of the pasteurization. At first, California health officials said they had not found fault with Jalisco Mexican Products in Artesia, Calif., the manufacturer of the suspect cheese. Later, health officials said pasteurized milk might have been diluted with non-pasteurized milk. ...
  5. ^ a b "California Dairy Is Absolved Of Blame in Poisonings of 48". Reuters in the New York Times. July 15, 1989. Retrieved 2011-10-04. A jury today absolved California's largest dairy of any blame for a batch of bacteria-contaminated cheese that killed 48 people four years ago. The jury in Los Angeles Superior Court also rejected claims by the cheese manufacturer, Jalisco Mexican Products, now defunct, that the listeria bacteria were present in raw milk it purchased from the Alta-Dena Certified Dairy.