Washington health officials investigate tragic Listeria outbreak

According to KIROTV soft cheese has been linked to three cases of listeriosis, including a death.

State health and agriculture officials are looking into an ongoing outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to consumption of Latin-style soft cheese produced by Queseria Bendita, a Yakima, Washington, firm.cheese

According to a news release, a total of three cases have been identified from Washington in King, Pierce and Yakima counties as of Jan. 16.

One illness was pregnancy-associated, two people were hospitalized, and one death was reported. Queseria Bendita has stopped producing cheese.

Health officials are warning consumers who may have purchased three Queseria Bendita brand cheeses — Queso Fresco, Panela and Requeson — and still have it in their refrigerators to throw the product away and not eat it.  

 

Illegal cheese source of Listeria for newborn in Oregon

Oregon public health officials issued a warning for illegally imported cheese from Mexico that is believed responsible for giving an unborn baby Listeria.

The infection was traced to unlabeled soft cheese called queso fresco sold in a Latino grocery store in Woodburn, officials said in a release. The listeriainvestigation by the Public Health Division and the Oregon Department of Agriculture found the cheese was brought into the country illegally from Mexico and sold in plastic bags.

A newborn baby became ill in late December, officials said, and believe the baby was infected before being born. 

25 sick, up from 13; Salmonella linked to homemade unpasteurized fresh cheese in Minn

At least 25 Minnesotans have been sickened with salmonellosis linked to eating a raw Mexican-style cheese, queso fresco, state health officials said. The outbreak illustrates the dangers of consuming unpasteurized dairy products.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the City of Minneapolis have been investigating the raw.milk.queso frescooutbreak and the source of the raw milk used to make the cheese since the first cases were detected in late April.

MDH confirmed 18 cases of infection with the same strain of Salmonella. An additional seven cases of illness occurred among family members or other contacts of confirmed cases, but no laboratory specimens were available. The individuals became ill between March 28 and April 24. Of the 25 cases, 15 were hospitalized. All have recovered. Many cases reported eating unpasteurized queso fresco purchased or received from an individual who made the product in a private home. Investigators have determined that the individual made home deliveries and also may have sold the product on a street corner near the East Lake Street area of Minneapolis.

Anyone who may have purchased or received this product recently should not eat it but should throw it away.

Samples of unpasteurized queso fresco collected from the cheese maker were found to contain the same strain of Salmonella as the illnesses. Investigators determined that the milk used to make the cheese was purchased by the cheese maker from a Dakota County farm. Unpasteurized milk samples collected at the farm were also found to match the outbreak strain.

Dr. Heidi Kassenborg, director of MDA’s Dairy and Food Inspection Division, said the outbreak underscores the dangers of consuming unpasteurized dairy products. “It only takes a few bacteria to cause illness. Milking a cow is not a sterile process and even the cleanest dairy farms can have milk that is contaminated. That’s why pasteurization – or the heat treatment of milk to kill the harmful pathogens – is so important,” said Kassenborg.

Minnesota law allows consumers to purchase raw milk directly from the farm for their own consumption, but it may not be further distributed or sold. Additionally, cheese production facilities need to follow proper food safety laws and regulations, including licensure.

Dr. Carlota Medus said the outbreak may be over, as there are no suspect cases pending. However, it may still be possible to see additional cases that have not been reported yet from people who consumed cheese prior to health officials’ interventions, which occurred April 23-26.

While this particular outbreak may be over, MDA and MDH officials are concerned that this may not be an isolated incident: that there may be other instances of people buying foods like unpasteurized queso fresco prepared by neighbors, friends or family. “It’s important for people to be aware of the inherent risk of consuming any raw dairy product from any source,” Medus said. “We encourage people to think carefully about those risks and know that the risks are especially high for young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.”

13 sick; Salmonella from raw-milk cheese outbreak in Minn

Thirteen people have become ill with salmonellosis linked to eating a raw Mexican-style cheese, queso fresco, and state health officials are warning consumers about the risks of consuming unpasteurized dairy products.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the City of Minneapolis are queso-blanco-440investigating the outbreak and the source of the raw milk used to make the cheese.

MDH has confirmed 11 cases of infection with the same strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. Eight were hospitalized. Additional illnesses have been reported in family members of the cases, including two hospitalizations. All have recovered. Many cases reported eating unpasteurized queso fresco purchased or received from an individual who made the product in a private home. Investigators have determined that the individual made home deliveries and also may have sold the product on a street corner near the East Lake Street area of Minneapolis.

Anyone who may have purchased or received this product recently should not eat it but should throw it away.

“While our immediate concern is that there might be additional illnesses associated with consumption of this particular product, we also want to remind people of the inherent risk of consuming any raw dairy product,” said Dr. Carlota Medus, foodborne illness epidemiologist with MDH. “We encourage people to think carefully about those risks before consuming raw dairy products from any source and know that the risks are especially high for young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.”

Pregnant woman diagnosed with listeriosis: illness linked to Jersey business El Ranchero del Sur, LLC’s cheese

Listeria is scary stuff, especially for pregnant women. Pregnant women make up nearly one-third of all cases of listeriosis, due to natural hormonal changes of pregnancy that weaken the immune system. While the mother normally survives an infection during pregnancy, the perinatal/neonatal mortality rate is greater than 80%.

According to an alert sent from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services to a couple of barfblog readers, El Ranchero del Sur, LLC of South River, NJ has a listeria problem in their cheese products. Consumption of their products have been linked to listeriosis in a pregnant woman and investigators have confirmed the presence of the pathogen. In queso fresco, again (here, here, etc).

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) Food and Drug Safety Program (FDSP) is warning the public not to consume any cheese products produced by El Ranchero del Sur, LLC of South River, NJ. On March 2, 2012, a 38-week pregnant woman was diagnosed with Listeria monocytogenes infection at a New Brunswick hospital. Subsequent investigation by the Middlesex County Health Department and product analysis by NJDHSS Public Health Environmental and Agricultural Laboratories confirmed the presence of L. monocytogenes in a sample of Los Corrales Queso Fresco Fresh Cheese and Banana Leaf code dated 03/16/12.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

FDSP, with assistance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has obtained a voluntary closure by the firm’s owner while the products and facility are investigated for the presence of L. monocytogenes. All products and ingredients at the facility have been placed under embargo pending the outcome of laboratory testing for L. monocytogenes.

El Ranchero del Sur, LLC has pledged to conduct a voluntary recall through the FDA and is contacting its customers to arrange for the retrieval of all of their cheese products. El Ranchero del Sur cheese products can be found primarily in Mexican and Latin American grocery stores, restaurants, and other hispanic food establishments under the name brands El Ranchero, Los Corrales, and Carnes Don Beto with the plant number 34-0013669 marked on the label. All products are 14 ounces in weight except for the Queso Hebra Oaxaca String Cheese ball in 10 pound packages.
FDSP is requesting local health departments to investigate retail food establishments, in their respective jurisdictions, which are likely to sell or use these products in food service, and take actions to remove from sale or service all of the products described above, of all types and code dates.

If you have any questions, please contact Alan Talarsky, Dairy Project Coordinator, FDSP at (609) 826-4935. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Mr. Cheese sickens up to 2100 with bathtub queso fresco, gets off with a fine

Fidel Gomez — initially dubbed "Mr. Cheese" by state regulators — was issued a citation and ordered to pay a $500 fine for violating the Utah Dairy Act for producing and selling homemade queso fresco that was the source of an outbreak of Salmonella Newport in Utah going back to 2009.

Reports have placed the number of confirmed cases between 40 and 80, but have said the unreported cases may be in the thousands.

The news release states that Gomez was producing the cheese in his West Valley City home without the proper sanitation equipment or a license or permit. At least one Salt Lake Valley restaurant, in turn, was selling the cheese.

The cheese probe took three years, involved a criminal investigator and extended to a fast-food franchise where Mr. Cheese’s wife worked.

Reno child gets Campylobacter from illegal bathtub cheese

Don’t eat cheese made in a bathtub.

The Washoe County Health District in Reno, Nevada, announced that a child became seriously ill from Campylobacter after eating homemade cheese that was illegally sold door-to-door.

Tracie Douglas, the health district’s spokeswoman, said she does not know when the child became ill or if the youngster had to be hospitalized. Also unavailable is the child’s age, gender or city of residence.

Because queso fresco is made with unpasteurized milk in unsanitary and unlicensed facilities, it poses a serious health threat to consumers, particularly the elderly, young, pregnant women, and people who have weakened immune systems.

Although it has not been determined if the cheese that made the child sick was made locally, it is being sold door-to-door in the Truckee Meadows throughout Hispanic communities, health officials said.

Reasons not to buy seafood or cheese from a van down by the river

U. S. Customs and Border Protection officers stopped more than 100 pounds of soft Mexican cheese or queso fresco, hidden in false compartments of a vehicle trying to enter the United States across the Bridge of the Americas on Wednesday.

Associated Press notes federal officials permit travelers to import personal quantities of cheese — about 11 pounds per person.