Blessed are the cheese-makers: Storm parliament in NZ

A small-scale cheese maker is hauling her raw milk cheese to Parliament.

florida-swampKatikati’s Mount Eliza Cheese owner Jill Whalley says New Zealand artisan producers of raw milk cheese find high compliance costs crippling – about $60 a kilo.

That makes European products cheaper to import and it’s not fair, she says.

The Food and Safety Reform Bill is currently under consideration by a select committee.

“We want a level playing field,” says Whalley.

She believes it’s prohibitive to a thriving artisan cheese industry.

“If they took the same approach to road safety as they do to food safety, we would all have to drive at three miles per hour, with a person in front waving a red flag.”

Whalley argues pastuerisation destroys the milk’s good bacteria which protects the cheese from harmful bacteria.

Small cheese makers have greater control over hygiene and other variables and can prevent it from happening, Whalley says.

I also have some land in Florida you may want buy.

Raw milk cheese can really suck

Fresh cheeses are a main garnish of Mexican food. Consumption of artisanal fresh cheeses is very common and most of them are made from unpasteurised cow milk.

unknownA total of 52 fresh unpasteurised cheeses of five different types were purchased from a variety of suppliers from Tabasco, Mexico. Using the most probable number method, 67% and 63% of samples were positive for faecal coliforms and E. coli, respectively; revealing their low microbiological quality.

General hygienic conditions and practices of traditional cheese manufacturers were poor; most establishments had unclean cement floors, all lacked windows and doors screens, and none of the food-handlers wore aprons, surgical masks or bouffant caps. After analysing all E. coli isolates (121 strains) for the presence of 26 virulence genes, results showed that 9 (17%) samples were contaminated with diarrheagenic E. coli strains, 8 harboured non-O157 Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC), and one sample contained both STEC and diffusely ad-herent E. coli strains. All STEC strains carried the stx1 gene. Potential uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) strains were isolated from 15 (29%) samples; the most frequent gene combination was fimA-agn43. Two samples were contaminated with Salmonella. The results demonstrated that unpasteurised fresh cheeses produced in Tabasco are of poor microbiological quality and may frequently harbour foodborne pathogens.

Food safety authorities in Mexico need to conduct more rigorous surveillance of fresh cheeses. Furthermore, simple and inexpensive measures as establishing programs emphasizing good hand milking practices and hygienic manufacturing procedures may have a major effect on improving the microbiological quality of these food items.

Mexican unpasteurised fresh cheeses are contaminated with Salmonella spp., non-O157 Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli and potential uropathogenic E. coli strains: A public health risk

International Journal of Food Microbiology 237 (2016) 10–16, DOI:

R Guzman-Hernandez, A Contreras-Rodriguez, R Hernandez-Velez, I Perez-Martinez, A Lopez-Merino, MB Zaidi, T Estrada-Garcia

Unpasteurized cheese making record number sick in Texas

Claire Z. Cardona of The Dallas Morning News reports a record number of people in Dallas County have been sickened from an infection caused by consuming unpasteurized cheese, health officials said. 

brucellosisThere have been 13 brucellosis infections in residents so far this year, affecting patients between 6 and 80 years old, according to a health advisory released Thursday

All of the patients reported eating the cheese brought into the U.S. from Mexico by friends or relatives, consuming the cheese while traveling in Mexico or eating unidentified cheese products from local street vendors, officials said. 

The county typically sees two to six cases a year, though 11 were recorded in 2004. 

Health officials confirmed all the Dallas County cases by blood culture. In two instances, hospital lab personnel were exposed while handling the samples. 

The Brucella bacteria can infect livestock and is most commonly transmitted to humans who consume the unpasteurized dairy products. Some areas, such as Mexico and Central and South America, are considered high-risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

New cheese alert after child’s E. coli death

A three-year-old girl from Dunbartonshire who died from E. coli O157 was among 20 confirmed cases that emerged in July and linked to Dunsyre Blue cheese made by South Lanarkshire-based Errington Cheese.

e-coli-o157-cheeseOn Saturday, Food Standards Scotland ordered the withdrawal from sale of batch G14 of Lanark White (unpasteurized) ewe milk cheese, adding, “A sample from a batch of Lanark White submitted for testing by South Lanarkshire Council has tested positive for E. coli O157. Although this organism may not carry shiga toxins, it is associated with human disease in the UK, so this cheese is a potential risk to health. FSS has issued a FAFA [Food Alert for Action] calling for this product to be immediately recalled from sale.”

The order to withdraw the cheese from sale was made after Errington refused to issue its own voluntary recall.

The company said the cheese had been on the market for three weeks with no reported cases of illness.

In a statement on its website, it said: “When we were told of the presumptive E. coli O157 result we immediately consulted experts in dairy microbiology.

“The experts told us they were confused and concerned by the testing methodology adopted by the laboratory.

“We have given careful consideration to this and to the fact that the cheese has been on the market for three weeks now with absolutely no reported incidence of illness.

“We have arranged for the sample of the same cheese tested by the authorities to be tested and the results will be ready on Monday when we will review the situation.”

Health Protection Scotland previously said that epidemiological investigations had “identified Dunsyre Blue cheese as the most likely cause of the outbreak”.

It added: “Despite extensive investigation, including looking for other possible food sources, no other link to a majority of cases could be established.”

Errington Cheese disputed the link, maintaining there was no conclusive evidence linking its products to the outbreak.

In a statement on its website last month it said that testing had shown it to be “completely clear of E. coli O157.”

Professor Hugh Pennington, the country’s leading expert on E. coli, told the Herald Scotland it could be difficult to identify it in any product suspected of causing food poisoning as by the time the illness comes to light, the food is usually all consumed or thrown away.

“Even if some of the batch (of food) is available for testing the bug might not be evenly distributed through a whole product, and so you might test part of the product that has been left or not been eaten yet and not find it – that doesn’t prove it wasn’t there in the bit that has been eaten,” he said.

“Scientifically it is sometimes quite complicated to come to a straightforward conclusion. The cheese manufacturers rightly say what is the evidence – but the regulatory authorities might never be able to come up with that.”

Joanna Blythman, investigative food journalist and the Sunday Herald’s food critic, said she believed there was a prejudice in Scotland against raw milk products, adding, “The (Dunsyre Blue) case puts a chill round everyone who wants to make a small scale artisan food. Meanwhile, the real prime suspects for large scale food poisoning are our industrial food producers.”

Stick to journalism. Illness per meal and type of food consumer and processing technique would have to be factored into any comparison of one food and artisan products.

Epi works but needs to be stronger than ‘some people ate the cheese ’ Cheese firm in Scotland linked to E. coli outbreak threatens legal action

Victoria Weldon of Herald Scotland writes that a cheese firm at the centre of an E.coli outbreak is threatening legal action to prevent a ban on sales of its popular delicacy. Blue, a mould ripened, gourmet cheese from Lanarkshire, is suspected of being the source of last month’s outbreak which struck down 16 people, hospitalising two.

Makers Errington Cheese were initially forced to recall two batches but claim they have now been ordered to halt all sales or face enforcement action.

It follows fresh tests carried out by FSS identifying genes that, while not confirmation of E.coli, indicate a “presumptive positive” result for naturally occurring bacteria strains.

Company founder Humphrey Errington claims the ban is “unprecedented” and argues that scientific evidence suggests presumptive positive results are notoriously inconclusive, adding, “The behaviour of FSS is monstrous. They blamed our cheese for this outbreak in the absence of any hard evidence and have refused to share with us details of their investigation. We had independent tests carried out two weeks ago that showed the suspected batches of cheese were not contaminated. We shared these results with FSS and they said nothing to restore public trust in the product.”

Errington said the ban on Dunsyre Blue, which accounts for about two-thirds of the company’s revenue, was a “catastrophe” and revealed that his lawyers will decide today whether or not to take legal action.

“I’m afraid I can see this ending up in the courts,” he told the Sunday Times.

Dunsyre Blue is characterised by its chunky blue-green moulds and is favoured by the Queen and Michelin-starred restaurants, including an eaterie run by renowned chef Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles resort in Perthshire.

It became the focus of the health scare after 14 people in Scotland and two in England were struck down with E.coli in July, suffering stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.

By the end of the month, health officials announced that Dunsyre Blue was the most likely cause of the outbreak.

However, questions are now being asked over the strength of evidence linking the cheese to the outbreak.

Hugh Pennington, professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “I don’t know if Dunsyre Blue was the cause or not, but if you’re going to accuse Errington’s cheese of being the vector of the outbreak, then without further ado effectively destroy his business, then I think you should have stronger evidence than just ‘some people ate the cheese’.”

A spokesman for FSS said that all victims had been contaminated with the same strain of E.coli O157 and that “there is a strong link with certain batches [C22 and D14] of Dunsyre Blue cheese”.

He added: “Dunsyre Blue cheese remains the most likely source of this outbreak, with confirmed cases becoming unwell between July 2 and 15. It would not be appropriate to respond in more detail as investigations have not yet concluded.”

Brucellosis linked to raw milk cheese, coupled with Lyme disease, leaves woman bedridden

Reve Fisher of Opposing Views writes a vacation in Greece may have been the factor that left an English woman in debilitating pain.

brucellosis.cheeseWhile in Kos, Greece, with her family in 2013, Sam Philpott ate a “significant amount” of unpasteurized goat cheese in sandwiches, on pizzas, and as part of salads.

A few weeks later, she experienced a number of troubling symptoms, such as constant vomiting and nausea, migraines, intense weakness, fevers, exhaustion, and horrific pain. Three years later, she is barely able to walk.

“Who knew that [unpasteurized] cheese; that is delicious and has brought me much momentary happiness, could cause the mind numbing and wanting to end my life type of pain that I have been suffering with,” she said, as reported by The Mirror. “With each mouthful, to my unfortunate complete lack of knowledge and utter surprise, I was ingesting the bacteria that has led to my being bedridden.”

Sam is receiving intravenous therapy treatment at Sponaugle Wellness Institute in Oldsmar, Florida, a facility with an “incredible” success rate for treating patients with Lyme disease, as said on the family’s Go Fund Me page.

However, it is recommended that patients with Lyme disease be diagnosed within six months for the clinic’s regular treatment to be effective. The 22-year-old has been struggling with health ailments for six years.

In 2010, she was bitten by a tick while in Weimar, California, and developed intense joint pain, nausea, anxiety, depression, and poor concentration afterwards. By 2012, she needed a walking frame. Her 51-year-old mother became her full-time caregiver.

“At the clinic, they have said she is one of the worst patients they have seen, in terms of how far her illness has progressed,” said Joe Philpott, Sam’s 24-year-old brother. “It’s a kick in the teeth, but she has faith they’ll be able to help. She just wants to go back to studying and get her life back.”

Sam is receiving medication for both Brucellosis and Lyme disease, as her symptoms match both conditions.

“Doctors believe that she more than likely contracted brucellosis the summer she was in Kos – so they think it is linked to eating cheese,” Joe explained.

Salmonella in Chapel Hill creamery milk same strain as illnesses

Chapel Hill Creamery released a press release with some more info related to the outbreak.

Chapel Hill Creamery in Chapel Hill, NC, has announced a voluntary recall of all Chapel Hill Creamery cheese products because of a potential association with an outbreak of Salmonella infections. Health officials have identified recent cases of Salmonella infection in persons who consumed Chapel Hill Creamery products. A matching strain of Salmonella has been identified in the milk from the creamery that was used during preparation of the cheese products.Unknown-2

Also, some interesting messages in this coverage from

Orange County Health Department director Dr. Colleen Bridger said the investigation began because of local numbers that were out of sync with normal figures.

“Orange County, Durham County, Wake County and Chatham County were all noticing that we had higher-than-usual reported cases of Salmonella,” Bridger said.

Bridger said “it’s not unusual” to see spikes in Salmonella throughout the year but these spikes were out of the ordinary. That caused officials to ask those who had tested positive for Salmonella about their eating habits in an attempt to pinpoint the source.

“In doing that questionnaire,” Bridger said, “we had one person identify that they had eaten cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery.”

Bridger said that the state Department of Agriculture reached out to the Orange County Health Department around that same time to report that they had a sample from Chapel Hill Creamery test positive for Salmonella. Bridger said further testing determined the same strain found in the sample from Chapel Hill Creamery was found in those testing positive for Salmonella.

Bridger said Chapel Hill Creamery responded immediately by issuing a voluntary recall of all Chapel Hill Creamery cheese products.

“I can’t state enough how proactive Chapel Hill Creamery has been in this investigation, how cooperative they have been,” Bridger said. “They have done everything they were supposed to do in the preparation of their cheese. These things sometimes happen.

“They did not do anything wrong.”

Bridger added that “there is always a risk” when using raw milk to make cheese, which she characterized as a one percent risk.

Bridger said Chapel Hill Creamery goes “above and beyond” federal guidelines in most cases when processing and aging cheeses.

Data on practices and one-percent risks would help support these statements.

A select list of cheese/pathogen incidents can be found here.

2 stricken with Listeria in France, unpasteurized cheese recalled

The Puillet cheese factory, located in Roanne, France withdrew its products from sale after detection of Listeria monocytogenes. Two people from the retirement home of Belmont-de-la-Loire have been infected.

camembert_franceListeria has been detected in Camembert cheese made from cow’s milk from a local dairy.

The presence of bacteria was detected after 2 people from the retirement home of Belmont-de-la-Loire, returned after a meal on June 23, 2016. The investigation by the DDPP Loire (Department for Protection of Populations) revealed that the infection had come from cheese consumed during the meal.

The manager of the dairy remains dubious: “We do not know where it comes from or how it could be contaminated. It’s been over 20 years since we started (the business) and it never happened before. It is really hurting our business.”

Food fraud: Ireland wants to separate its cheese from Brits

Provenance of processed foods is a significant quality attribute for many consumers and one for which they are willing to pay a price premium. As a consequence, the fraudulent mislabeling or adulteration of high-value foods now occurs on a global scale.

Artisan_cheese_cover_200Regulatory authorities and food businesses are focusing greater efforts in combating food fraud which can have serious ramifications for both revenue and reputation.

A number of provenance verification schemes have been established in other countries with the express purpose of protecting the denomination of quality associated with particular food products. This includes the Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano protected designation of origin status for artisan cheeses in Italy. There is currently no such scheme for artisan or “farmhouse” cheeses produced on the island of Ireland and yet it is desirable to facilitate a system of provenance confirmation which can provide confidence to consumers in the true geographical origin of artisan cheeses branded as produced on the island of Ireland. It is therefore prudent at this point in time to investigate analytical methods that could be applied to provide consumers with the necessary assurance of the claimed island of Ireland origin of such products.

The concentration and relative ratios of key analytes in a food products such as cheese are mainly influenced by animal diet and geographic location. Several reports from other countries or regions have shown that the use of multivariate analysis of analytical data comprising elemental and isotopic ratio values can provide confirmation of claimed geographic provenance. Given that food animals on the island of Ireland are largely fed a grass-based diet and reside within a discrete insular geographical area, there is potential for developing robust fingerprint models that can characterise indigenous farmhouse cheeses.

Ultimately, the development of robust models will require the demonstration of two properties: (a) models should correctly classify the provenance of all island of Ireland-produced artisan cheeses as originating on the island of Ireland, and (b) models should correctly identify that farmhouse cheeses produced outside the island of Ireland are not of island of Ireland provenance. These two objectives are inseparable in the context of the provenance testing desired and must be demonstrated before any such model can be confidently used in practice. Before this juncture is reached the application of analytical methodologies for the purposes of robust fingerprinting must be investigated.

Artisan_cheese_640_90This project was a technology viability study that set out to do just that. The strategy pursued generated a considerable quantity of baseline analytical data on the elemental and isotopic composition of island of Ireland artisanal cheese as well as a selection of artisanal cheeses from Great Britain and mainland Europe. While it was not possible to confirm the geographic provenance of island of Ireland artisanal cheeses with 100% accuracy, nonetheless trends in some of the data, especially the isotope data, suggest the possibility of effective segregation of island of Ireland from mainland European, if not Great Britain, cheeses.

Therefore the analytical methodologies investigated have been scoped out for this purpose and can now be taken forward and applied in more focused investigations involving artisan cheeses and other foods produced on the island of Ireland.

Listeria and raw milk cheese: A risk assessment involving sheep

Semisoft cheese made from raw sheep’s milk is traditionally and economically important in southern Europe. However, raw milk cheese is also a known vehicle of human listeriosis and contamination of sheep cheese with Listeria monocytogenes has been reported.

sheep.milk.cheeseIn the present study, we have developed and applied a quantitative risk assessment model, based on available evidence and challenge testing, to estimate risk of invasive listeriosis due to consumption of an artisanal sheep cheese made with raw milk collected from a single flock in central Italy.

In the model, contamination of milk may originate from the farm environment or from mastitic animals, with potential growth of the pathogen in bulk milk and during cheese ripening. Based on the 48-day challenge test of a local semisoft raw sheep’s milk cheese we found limited growth only during the initial phase of ripening (24 hours) and no growth or limited decline during the following ripening period. In our simulation, in the baseline scenario, 2.2% of cheese servings are estimated to have at least 1 colony forming unit (CFU) per gram. Of these, 15.1% would be above the current E.U. limit of 100 CFU/g (5.2% would exceed 1,000 CFU/g). Risk of invasive listeriosis per random serving is estimated in the 10−12 range (mean) for healthy adults, and in the 10−10 range (mean) for vulnerable populations.

When small flocks (10–36 animals) are combined with the presence of a sheep with undetected subclinical mastitis, risk of listeriosis increases and such flocks may represent a public health risk.

Risk assessment of human listeriosis from semisoft cheeses made from raw sheep’s milk in Lazio and Tuscany

Roberto Condoleo, Ziad Mezher, Selene Marozzi, Antonella Guzzon, Roberto Fischetti, Matteo Senese, Stefania Sette, Luca Bucchini

Risk Analysis, June 2016, doi:10.1111/risa.12649;jsessionid=519D74728E4A34E1CE300B856B99D54B.f04t04