Friday, November 5, 2010

Raw Milk Cheese May Be Source of New E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak

Cheese manufacturer cooperating in FDA/CDC/California outbreak investigation

FDA, CDC and Costco Wholesale Corporation have warned consumers that Bravo Dutch Style Raw Milk Gouda Cheese may be linked to an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections. As of November 4th, cases of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses – all due to a single strain of the pathogen – have been reported in Arizona (11), California (1), Colorado (8), New Mexico (3) and Nevada (2). Nine people have been hospitalized, and one person may be suffering from hemolytic uremic syndrome.

The suspect cheese (Costco Item #40654) was offered for sale and in cheese sampling events at Costco locations in all five states (although only in the San Diego area in California) that have reported E. coli O157:H7 illnesses. The cheese was available for purchase and for tasting at these locations between October 5th and November 1st.

When invited by eFoodAlert to comment on the report, Jonathan Van Ryn of Bravo Farms Cheese issued the following statement:
"Recently the FDA has issued a warning that our Dutch style Gouda in Costco may be related to a foodborne disease. They have isolated a small percentage of this Gouda that may be suspect. The Gouda went to Costco stores in San Diego and some Costco’s outside California. It went to no other stores. We have reviewed all of our documentation and are working with the government agencies to assist them in their investigation. We at Bravo Farms work diligently to abide by all local and national safety requirements and hope to resolve this as quickly and safely as possible. We are working closely with Costco to voluntarily recall all Dutch style Gouda out of Costco stores, and a phone call was made to everyone who purchased this variety. We will continue to update on any progress."
The link between Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda and the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak is still characterized as "preliminary" by the federal agencies. Nevertheless, consumers are being advised by Costco to return any remaining Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda to the store for a full refund. Costco has removed the cheese from its stores and has used its card purchase records to identify and notify affected consumers by telephone.

FDA and CDC have promised to update the public on the status of this outbreak investigation as more information becomes available.

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