Stop & Shop deli closed after possible bacterial contamination

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Consumers are being advised to not consume meats and cheeses purchased from the Stop & Shop deli located at 300 Quaker Lane between the dates of Jan. 18 and Feb. 2 following a possible exposure to Listeria monocytogene bacteria, which can cause a potentially-deadly disease called listeriosis, according to a press release sent out by the Rhode Island Department of Health on Sunday.

“While we have received no confirmed illnesses, out of an abundance of caution, we temporarily closed the deli service case for meats and cheeses,” said Phil Tracey, a spokesman for Stop & Shop. “We hope to re-open this area very soon. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this may cause. If customers have any questions, they are encouraged to speak to our Warwick store management team.”

Concerned customers may contact Stop & Shop customer service at 800-767-7772 or visit with management in the store. Customers who purchased deli meats and cheeses during this time period are encouraged to discard them and bring receipts for full refunds.

Joseph Wendelken, public information officer for the Department of Health, said that there are only about 1,600 cases of listeriosis nationally each year. It is a disease that can cause high fever, neck stiffness, nausea and severe headaches – similar to flu-like symptoms – and can cause miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women. It also poses a deadly risk to people already at risk for infections due to weakened immune systems, such as infants, the elderly and people with HIV or those undergoing chemotherapy.

Wendelken said that the department was still conducting an investigation of what caused the potential buildup of bacteria, so it was premature to discuss any possible punitive measures levied against Stop & Shop. He also said that Stop & Shop had hired a cleaning service to perform an “intense cleaning” of the deli area.

Wendelken said that the Food and Drug Administration recommends that surfaces that make contact with meats, such as deli slicers, be cleaned and sanitized at least once every four hours. He encouraged consumers to inquire about the sanitation schedule of delis that they purchase meats and cheeses from.

He also provided tips for preventing your meats and cheeses from potentially building up bacteria and causing harm when ingested.

“Generally I would say if people have purchased factory sealed unopened packages of deli meat, they should stay refrigerated and shouldn’t keep them for any more than two weeks,” he said. “Deli meat cut in a store should also be refrigerated but not kept for more than five days.”

Wendelken confirmed there have been no lab-confirmed illnesses that resulted from the possible contamination at Stop & Shop. He said that the store’s management should alert its customers when the deli will reopen.

“I imagine Stop and Shop will be responsible for getting that out there,” he said.

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