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Clin Infect Dis. 2007 Feb 15;44(4):521-8. Epub 2007 Jan 8.

Listeria monocytogenes infection from foods prepared in a commercial establishment: a case-control study of potential sources of sporadic illness in the United States.

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Epidemic Intelligence Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.



Listeria monocytogenes has been estimated to cause >2500 illnesses and 500 deaths annually in the United States. Efforts to reduce foodborne listeriosis have focused on foods frequently implicated in outbreaks. Potential sources for L. monocytogenes infection not associated with outbreaks remain poorly understood.


The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network conducts surveillance for culture-confirmed listeriosis at clinical laboratories in 9 states. After excluding outbreak-associated cases, we attempted to enroll eligible case patients with L. monocytogenes infection in a case-control study from 2000 through 2003. Control subjects were recruited through health care providers and were matched to case patients by state, age, and immunosuppression status. Data were collected about exposures occurring in the 4 weeks before specimen collection from the case patients.


Of the 249 case patients with L. monocytogenes infection, only 12 (5%) had cases that were associated with outbreaks; 6 other patients were ineligible for other reasons. Of 231 eligible case patients, 169 (73%) were enrolled in the study. We classified 28 case patients as having pregnancy-associated cases. We enrolled 376 control subjects. In multivariable analysis, L. monocytogenes infection was associated with eating melons at a commercial establishment (odds ratio, 2.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.4-5.0) and eating hummus prepared in a commercial establishment (odds ratio, 5.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.7-19.1).


Most cases of L. monocytogenes infection were not associated with outbreaks. Reducing the burden of foodborne listeriosis may require interventions directed at retail environments and at foods, such as melons and hummus, that are not commonly recognized as high risk. Because of the severity of listeriosis, pregnant women and other persons at risk may wish to avoid eating these newly implicated foods.

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