Blessed are the cheesemakers, as lawmakers, question FDA standards for raw milk cheese

Many of Wisconsin’s federal lawmakers signed a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration questioning recently finalized standards limiting the level of non-toxigenic E. coli allowed in raw milk cheese.

cheesemakersThese lawmakers and some producers are worried about how the stricter standard could affect cheese production.

Non-toxigenic E. coli is not a bacteria that causes illness but it’s measured to test the overall cleanliness of cheese.

Before a 2009 rewrite of the regulations, the FDA allowed up to 10,000 colony-forming units per gram. But now they’ll take disciplinary action if a product contains over 10 units of the bacteria in three out of five samples.

Licensed cheesemaker Marieke Penterman makes gouda from raw milk. She said unpasteurized cheese has to age longer to meet those standards.

“That’s going to have a tremendous (economic) impact for a lot of smaller cheese creameries like us that cannot afford to have so much cheese, aging cheese in our inventory,” she said.

If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap; if it is Scottish cheese, it might contain Listeria

After further investigation, CFIA has expanded a recall announcement for Inverloch cheeses that have been imported and distributed across Canada.

Glen Echo Fine Foods is recalling Inverloch cheeses imported from Scotland from the marketplace due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Consumers should not consume and distributors, retailers and food service establishments should not sell or use the recalled products described below.

The recalled products may have been sold in smaller packages, cut and wrapped by some retailers. Consumers who are unsure if they have purchased the affected products are advised to contact their retailer.

The great Canadian cheese heist

My favorite Breaking Bad episode centers around a train heist. Spoiler alert: Walt, Jesse and company acquire methylamine by stopping a train in the desert and replacing the crystal meth precursor with water.

The theft nets them $15 million in chemicals.

A bit more than what three Ontario (that’s in Canada) criminals got when they stole a truck containing over 30,000 lbs of cheese, according to The Star.5x5_Dead_Freight_(02)

According to police, the suspects allegedly stole a parked tractor trailer ‘loaded’ with dairy near Hwy 7 and Vaughan Valley Blvd. in Brampton around 1:40 a.m.

They then managed to make it to the area of Hwy 7 and Hwy 427 in Vaughan before crashing the truck and taking off on foot. One of the suspects was later arrested driving another car and the other two were located trying to hail a taxi.

Police followed the truck using an installed GPS system and a canine unit was brought in to track down the suspects.

Although unsure of the exact amount, “there might’ve been between 30,000 and 36,000 pounds of cheese in the truck,” said Const. Andy Pattenden. “The truck was fully-loaded.”

He also noted that police have ‘no idea’ if the thieves were specifically targeting the cheese or not.

Maybe there’s a black market for cheese in Ontario.

On-line cheese presents risk

Online shopping saves time and provides an enormous product choice, but when buying cheeses, this may lead to a quality compromise, according to a new study from Vetmeduni Vienna.

3294_Cheese shutterstock_117291487According to a German market study, six per cent of all fresh foods sold today are purchased online – and this rate is on the rise. For perishable foods, however, it is necessary to follow certain hygienic rules.

Dagmar Schoder from the Institute of Milk Hygiene at the Vetmeduni Vienna was interested above all in one especially high-risk food – raw milk cheese. Raw milk cheeses are made from unpasteurised milk, which puts them at a higher risk of microbiological contamination.

Ms Schoder and her colleagues ordered 108 different raw milk cheeses from 21 online retailers in seven European countries (France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Belgium).

“We chose raw milk cheese because it is a high-risk product. As raw milk is unpasteurised, it can be easily contaminated with harmful bacteria.

“Even a small amount of bacteria, for which raw milk cheese offers ideal growing conditions, can reach critical proportions after a longer ripening, storage and transport time.

“The product is then no longer edible and may even make consumers ill. For this reason, special care must be taken during production, storage and transport,” said Ms Schoder.

The researchers found Listeria monocytogenes in two cheese products: one from France and one from the Netherlands.

The fecal bacteria Escherichia coli was found in 32 products. It indicates poor conditions of hygiene during production. Salmonella were not found in any of the cheese samples.

“Some of the producers apparently have shortcomings in terms of hygiene,” said first author Ms Schoder. “Furthermore, when making online purchases, I recommend consumers to check if a product is adequately packaged and cooled when it arrives.”

The shipping period of the online products was between one and five days.

“Cheese must be cooled,” Ms Schoder stressed. But this was not the case with 61.5 per cent of the raw milk products purchased.

“If raw milk cheese is not cooled, bacteria will grow more quickly. A longer transport journey and improper packaging increase the risk for consumers.”

Only 19 cheeses fulfilled the EU labelling requirements (Directive 2000/13/EC and Regulation 853/2004). Of the cheeses purchased, 37 were not labelled as “raw milk cheese” and 43 labels had no “use by date”. Information on storage requirements was missing in more than half of the cheeses.


Shiga toxin producing E. coli in raw milk cheese in Ireland

Corleggy Cheeses is recalling all batches of its raw milk cheeses due to the detection of verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) in two batches of its cow’s milk cheese.  The cheeses are supplied to some restaurants and retail shops.  They are also sold directly at food markets.  Consumers are advised not to eat the affected cheeses.

Corleggy CheesesVTEC may cause severe bloody diarrhoea and abdominal cramps, although sometimes the infection causes non-bloody diarrhoea or no symptoms. In some groups, particularly children under 5 years of age and the elderly, the infection can also cause a complication called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) in which the kidneys fail.


Salmonella in French cheeses prompts recall in Netherlands

It’s been a bad week for French cheeses.

imagesHong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety (CFS) expanded on its earlier recall for Listeria in raw-milk cheeses from France, and now the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority has recalled French cheese of the brand Le Petit Fiance des Pyrenees because of Salmonella.

The NVWA urgently warns people who have bought this brand of cheese with the expiration date 02-06-2015 to not consume the cheese and report it to the store where it was purchased. If you have already eaten the cheese and are feeling sick, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Italian child in hospital with Listeria from homemade cheese

A child of 18 months in Vigevano, in the province of Pavia, is hospitalized in serious condition in the pediatric ward of the Policlinico San Matteo in Pavia due to listeriosis, after eating a homemade cheese made with unpasteurized milk.

cheese_mites430x300Talking with the parents of the young patient, doctors have learned in recent days that the child ate a cheese that had been prepared at home. Once arrived at San Matteo, the child has undergone brain surgery to reduce complications of meningoencephalitis.

Lying about cheese leads to $750,000 fine and five days in jail

Lying to federal FDA investigators isn’t a good idea. Especially about redistributing cheese that had tested positive for Salmonella and Staph aureus. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Miguel Leal, president and owner of Mexican Cheese Producers was sentenced to 5 days in jail for covering up a nasty situation – washing and scraping cheese that had been returned by buyers.

Miguel Leal wanted to bring the cheese of his Mexican homeland to American consumers.Unknown-12

And on Friday, it cost him his freedom. A federal judge ordered Leal to serve five days behind bars for lying to FDA inspectors in 2007 about tainted, moldy, slimy Queso Cincho de Guerrero cheese that was “washed” and scraped and shipped across the U.S.

“I think he started out with a mistake,” U.S. District Judge James Zagel said, in issuing an unusually lenient sentence far below the 13-year maximum Leal had faced. “It turned out not to be a mistake but a crime.”

In all, more than 110,000 pounds of tainted Mexican cheese was shipped to his firm in 2007. A recall was issued in September 2007. Also Friday, Leal’s financial manager Cynthia Gutierrez, of Cicero, received five years probation, while Guadulupe Zurita, who owned the company that imported the cheese from Mexico, received one year probation. His brother Baldemar Zurita, who’s also charged with the scheme, is believed to be hiding in Mexico. Zagel also ordered Leal pay $750,000 in restitution, along with a year of probation.

Leal offered a public apology before his sentencing. “I deeply apologize and I ask for your mercy,” he said.

French raw sheep’s milk cheese contaminated with Listeria

Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (May 7) urged the public not to consume certain batches of PERAIL raw sheep’s milk cheese imported from France, as the product might have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a pathogen. The trade should also stop using or selling the product concerned immediately.

French-cheese-3-of-1“The Centre received a notification from the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) of the European Commission that certain batches of PERAIL raw sheep’s milk cheese were found to have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The French producer concerned has initiated a recall of all batches of all specialties of the product produced between the aforesaid dates.

According to the information provided by the RASFF, a small volume of the affected product (with best before dates of May 23, 29 or 30, 2015) has been imported into Hong Kong,” a spokesman for the CFS said.

The CFS is contacting the importer concerned in Hong Kong as notified by the RASFF to instruct it to stop the sale and initiate a recall of the affected product, and trace the distribution of the food concerned.

130 sickened by soft cheese in 2002: It was the birds

In 2005, Chapman and I went on a road trip featuring a lot of food and funny hats (I also met my wife, got a job at Kansas State and we birthed; 10 years, over 10,000 posts and 42,000 direct subscribers).

DSC00012.JPGFirst stop was Prince George, British Columbia (that’s in Canada) where Chapman was afraid he would get eaten by bears and they had foam parties.

Our host was Lynn Wilcott (on the left, wearing a funny hat).

DSC00009.JPGIn 2002, Lynn and Lorraine McIntyre investigated two outbreaks of Listeria related to soft cheese.

They weren’t allowed to publish for a while because the cases were in litigation, and then well, 10 years went by.



 Soft ripened cheese (SRC) caused over 130 foodborne illnesses in British Columbia (BC), Canada, during two separate listeriosis outbreaks. Multiple agencies investigated the events that lead to cheese contamination with Listeria monocytogenes (L.m.), an environmentally ubiquitous foodborne pathogen. In both outbreaks pasteurized milk and the pasteurization process were ruled out as sources of contamination. In outbreak A, environmental transmission of L.m. likely occurred from farm animals to personnel to culture solutions used during cheese production. In outbreak B, birds were identified as likely contaminating the dairy plant’s water supply and cheese during the curd-washing step. Issues noted during outbreak A included the risks of operating a dairy plant in a farm environment, potential for transfer of L.m. from the farm environment to the plant via shared toilet facilities, failure to clean and sanitize culture spray bottles, and cross-contamination during cheese aging. L.m. contamination in outbreak B was traced to wild swallows defecating in the plant’s open cistern water reservoir and a multibarrier failure in the water disinfection system. These outbreaks led to enhanced inspection and surveillance of cheese plants, test and release programs for all SRC manufactured in BC, improvements in plant design and prevention programs, and reduced listeriosis incidence.

 DSC00013.JPGMcIntyre, L., Wilcott, L and Naus, M. 2015. Listeriosis outbreaks in British Columbia, Canada, caused by soft ripened cheese contaminated from environmental sources. BioMed Research International, vol. 2015, Article ID 131623, 12 pages, 2015. doi:10.1155/2015/131623.