Multistate outbreak of listeriosis linked to soft-ripened cheese — United States, 2013

On June 27, 2013, the Minnesota Department of Health notified CDC of two patients with invasive Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis) whose clinical isolates had indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns. A query of PulseNet, the national molecular subtyping network for foodborne disease surveillance, identified clinical and environmental isolates from other states. On June 28, CDC learned from the Food and Drug Administration’s Coordinated Outbreak crave.brothers.cheeseResponse and Evaluation Network that environmental isolates indistinguishable from those of the two patients had been collected from Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese during 2010–2011. An outbreak-related case was defined as isolation of L. monocytogenes with the outbreak PFGE pattern from an anatomic site that is normally sterile (e.g., blood or cerebrospinal fluid), or from a product of conception, with an isolate upload date during May 20–June 28, 2013. As of June 28, five cases were identified in four states (Minnesota, two cases; Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, one each). Median age of the five patients was 58 years (range: 31–67 years). Four patients were female, including one who was pregnant at the time of infection. All five were hospitalized. One death and one miscarriage were reported.

Case–case analysis of Listeria Initiative* data (1) was conducted, comparing food exposure frequencies among the five outbreak-related cases identified by June 28 with food exposure frequencies in 1,735 sporadic listeriosis cases reported to CDC during 2004–2013. The analysis indicated that any soft cheese consumption during the month before illness onset was associated with outbreak-related listeriosis: five of five (100%) in the outbreak-related cases versus 569 of 1,735 (33%) in the sporadic cases (odds ratio = 10.8; 95% confidence interval = 1.8–∞).

The five patients were reinterviewed to assess their cheese exposures. All five patients had definitely or probably eaten one of three varieties of Crave Brothers soft-ripened cheese (Les Frères, Petit Frère, or Petit Frère with truffles). Three patients had purchased the cheese at three different restaurants, and two had purchased the cheese at two different grocery stores. The cheeses were shipped as intact wheels to the three restaurants and two grocery stores, where they had been cut and served or repackaged and sold to customers.

Testing at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture identified the outbreak pattern of L. monocytogenes in two cheese wedges (Les Frères and Petit Frère with truffles) collected from two different grocery stores in Minnesota. Inspection of the cheese-making facility revealed that substantial sanitation deficiencies during the cheese-making process itself, after the milk was pasteurized, likely led to contamination. On July 1, Crave Brothers halted production of Les Frères, Petit Frère, and Petit Frère with truffles. On July 3, Crave Brothers issued a voluntary recall of these products with a production date of July 1, 2013, or earlier. On July 11, the company voluntarily halted production of all cheese products manufactured at the facility. After product recall, one additional case was identified in Texas through whole genome sequencing, bringing the total case count for the outbreak to six.

This outbreak was linked to soft cheeses that were likely contaminated during the cheese-making process (2,3). Pasteurization eliminates Listeria in milk. However, contamination can occur after pasteurization. Cheese-making facilities should use strict sanitation and microbiologic monitoring, regardless of whether they use pasteurized milk.†

Persons at greater risk for listeriosis, including older adults, pregnant women, and those with immunocompromising conditions, should be aware that certain soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, or made under unsanitary conditions, regardless of whether the milk was pasteurized, have been shown to cause severe illness. These soft cheeses include fresh (unripened) cheeses, such as queso fresco (4), and soft-ripened cheeses, such as the cheeses implicated in this outbreak.

Mary J. Choi, Kelly A. Jackson, Carlota Medus,  Jennifer Beal, Carrie E. Rigdon, Tami C. Cloyd, Matthew J. Forstner, Jill Ball, Stacy Bosch, Lyndsay Bottichio, Venessa Cantu, David C. Melka, Wilete Ishow, Sarah Slette, Kari Irvin, Matthew Wise, Cheryl Tarr, Barbara Mahon, Kirk E. Smith, Benjamin J. Silk

7 sickened, 1 dead: why Delaware didn’t inspect cheese plant that caused Listeria outbreak

Delaware’s decision not to inspect cheese producers like Roos Foods in Kenton allowed the plant’s cheese operation to run with infrequent oversight before it was shut down in the wake of a deadly listeria infection outbreak.

Jeff Montgomery of Delaware online writes that unlike Maryland and other states, Delaware never sought expanded food safety inspection powers that would have led to state inspectors regularly checking the roos-foods-logo-300x187Roos cheese plant for safe and healthy operation. Instead, state rules kept blinders on local inspectors who made quarterly sanitation and compliance checks in a separate section where sour cream was produced in the same plant building that sent cheese to 10 eastern states as well as Texas and California.

The split oversight sheltered Roos Foods’ deteriorating cheese plant from more-frequent inspections, with federal inspectors visiting only three times in five years. The last regular federal inspection, in June 2013, turned up pooled water, sanitation failures and other problems.

The issue came to light earlier this month, when the Food and Drug Administration suspended Roos Foods’ approval to sell its products after one person died and seven others were sicked by listeria in cheese from Kenton. 

Groundhog Day: UK cheese destroyed due to E. coli risk

In 1996, 23 people died in an E. coli O157 outbreak when Scotland’s former butcher-of-the-year used the same knives on raw and cooked beef.

In 2005, a five-year-old child died and 160 were sickened after a butcher used the same vacuum packaging machine on raw and cooked beef.

Celebrity chef Marcus Wareing, who cooked for the Queen on her 80th birthday and is star of BBC’s Great British Menu series, failed his most recent restaurant inspection bill.murray.groundhog.daybecause he used the same vac-pak machine on raw and cooked product.

Now, according to the Cheddar Valley Gazette, cheese from  Bridgwater Butchers has been seized and destroyed as a result of a routine food hygiene inspection carried out by Sedgemoor District Council Environmental Health staff on January 15.

Environmental health staff discovered that cheese from A I Foster’s, in St Marys Street, Bridgwater was being vacuum-packed on the same equipment as raw meat before being displayed for sale.

Due to the risk of the cheese being contaminated with E. coli O157 the cheese was seized.

An application was made to Taunton Magistrates Court by Sedgemoor’s Legal team for a condemnation order.

In addition to the costs of destroying the cheese the Council were also awarded full costs claimed of over £600.

The Food Standards Agency stress that: “Under no circumstances should it be considered safe to use the same complex equipment, such as vacuum packing machines, slicers, mincers, etc, for both raw and ready-to-eat foods.”

Rules need enforcement.

Listeria in cheese sparks Australian recall

Because of contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, certain Tasmanian-produced cheeses are being recalled in several Australian states.

The Emporium Selection Pepper Cheese has been available for sale at Aldi Stores in Victoria, Queensland, NSW and the ACT.

The Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm Cheese products have been available for sale at independent supermarkets in Victoria and Tasmania only.

Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm Cheese – Wine Lovers 250g
Best Before 7/7/14 and 23/6/14

Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm Cheese 150g – Picnic Pack
Best Before 23/6/14

Ashgrove Tasmanian Farm Bush Pepper Cheese 50g -
Best Before 30/6/14

Emporium Selection Pepper Cheese 170g
Best Before 14/7/14 and 3/8/14


Third Listeria death linked to Australian cheese company

A third person has died following a listeria outbreak linked to soft cheeses produced in the Australian state of Victoria.

Victoria’s acting chief health officer, Dr Michael Ackland, has confirmed the death of a 68-year-old New South Wales man in late January was linked to the listeria contamination of Jindi cheese products.

An 84-year-old Victorian man and a 44-year-old Tasmanian man have also died of listeria infection. A pregnant NSW woman miscarried. More than 20 listeriaother cases have been reported.

Jindi has voluntarily recalled all batches of cheese manufactured up to January 6.

The Newcastle Herald cited Dr Ackland as saying the outbreak, which has been traced to the company’s factory in Gippsland, was the largest the nation had suffered and one of the most complex. He described the process of tracking the outbreak to Jindi as ”an important piece of investigative work”, which involved obtaining food histories from victims and intelligence from OzFoodNet, the federal food diseases surveillance unit, as well as bacterial DNA tests to determine the strain of listeria.

On January 7, Jindi’s French-owned parent company, Lactalis – which bought the gourmet cheese maker from Menora Foods in November for an estimated $20 million – voluntarily committed to a quality assurance program jindi.cheese.listeria.13that ”significantly cranks up” its existing food safety standards and has satisfied Victoria’s chief health officer.

Jindi’s chief executive, Franck Beaurain, has not returned telephone calls from Fairfax Media for more than a week.

2 deaths, 1 miscarriage among 21 now sick from Listeria linked to Jindi cheese in Australia

Three more Australians have been stricken with listeriosis after eating soft cheese, bringing the total number of people affected nationwide to 21.

Two Australians have died and a pregnant woman has miscarried listeriafollowing the outbreak.

The people ate cheese produced by the Jindi Cheese Company that has since been recalled.

Jindi has voluntarily recalled all batches of cheese manufactured up to and including January 6.

NSW Health acting director of health protection Professor Wayne Smith said all of the recent cases involved people aged over 65 with one person in a serious condition.

Consumers can call the Jindi helpline on 1800 680 175 for more information on the recalled cheeses.

8 sick; Australian Listeria outbreak prompts cheese recall

Eight cases of listeria infection across Australia have found to be linked and a further three cases are under investigation.

Victoria’s chief health officer Rosemary Lester said consumers should discard 1kg brie and camembert cheese branded Jindi, the 1kg Wattle Valley double brie and the 1kg Wattle Valley camembert with a best before date of December 21.

Dr Lester warned consumers to check the best before date of any Jindi or Wattle Valley soft cheeses.

Two Victorians, three NSW residents and one person in Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia have been diagnosed with the infection.

“Symptoms of illness can take up to 70 days to appear.”

Mozzarella mafia: cheese smuggling ring is brought down in Canada

Canadians have gone hardcore as notorious cheese smugglers.

NPR reports a “large scale Canada-U.S. cheese smuggling operation” has been brought down, after an international investigation tracked criminals who were skirting import duties and Canada’s higher cheese prices.

“The investigation revealed over $200,000 worth of cheese and other products were purchased and distributed for an estimated profit of over $165,000,” Niagara police said.

The smugglers — one current and one former police officer, and one civilian — reportedly sought out pizza restaurants to move their merchandise. News emerged this week that charges would soon be announced against what Mark called a “mozzarella mafia.”

As Windsor, Ontario, pizzeria owner Bob Abumeeiz told the CBC, he has been asked several times if he’s interested in buying cheese smuggled from America, where prices are anywhere from a third to half what they are in Canada.

“Cheese is the white gold in the restaurant business. Cheese is 50 percent of the taste on a pizza,” he said. “The price is rising every year two or three percent.”

The network operated in Ontario, where two of the accused have worked for the Niagara Regional Police Service.

48 sick: people poisoned by Salmonella in French market cheese

Dischamp cheese has been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Dublin that has sickened at least 48 people  who purchased it at the Saint-Nectaire farmers market.

Lot number D21950033 is that of St. Nectaire farmer sold the cut between August 10 and September 5. It represents 3,500 cheeses or 5 tons.