Federal investigators are probing a multi-state listeria outbreak tied to the consumption of soft raw milk cheese from Vulto Creamery, believed to have led to two deaths and the hospitalization of four more.
Six people were hospitalized in Connecticut, Florida, New York, and Vermont, with two fatalities in Connecticut and Vermont, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on March 9 in a statement. An illness was reported in a newborn.
Soft Raw Milk Cheese Recall
Ouleout cheese, soft raw milk cheese made by Vulto Creamery of Walton in New York, is deemed the likely source of the outbreak.
“The outbreak strain of listeria was identified in samples taken from three intact wheels of Ouleout cheese collected from Vulto Creamery,” the CDC statement read.
The company has recalled all lots of the cheese as well as Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheese varieties after Ouleout lot number 617 tested positive for listeria while lot number 623 was found possibly contaminated.
The cheeses were distributed nationally and mostly sold at retail stores in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, Chicago, California, Portland, and Washington DC. Production has been halted pending investigation.
Consumers are urged to immediately remove the purchased cheese from common storage coolers and return it for a refund.
Listeria fears have fueled another major recall of cheese, according to NBC News. This recall involves cheese distributed by Deutsch Kase Haus from Indiana and comprises products sold under brand names such as Sargento, Yoke’s Fresh Market, Biery Cheese, Amish Classics, and Gussisberg Cheese. No sickness has been linked to this outbreak.
Raw milk has not undergone pasteurization and can be tainted by listeria and other bacteria.
Listeria In Focus
Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious, sometimes deadly infections in young kids, the elderly, pregnant women, and those who have compromised immune systems, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned.
In healthy individuals, only short-term symptoms may manifest, including high fever, nausea, severe headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and stiffness.
In pregnant women, it can cause miscarriage, stillbirths, and fetal infections. In a study last month, a team from Madison School of Veterinary Medicine found that listeria pathogens can adversely affect the fetus during pregnancy and may even cause miscarriage during the early stages.
In the trial that involved animals such as pregnant monkeys, researchers saw that none of the mothers were infected themselves before the pregnancies ended, yet listeria invaded the placenta and prevented transmission to the mother. The bacteria’s speed also renders it hard to treat.
In early February, potential listeria contamination prompted Ruth’s Salads to implement an expanded recall of its pimento cheese products, which covers pimento spreads of varying sizes and flavors plus a pineapple cream cheese product. Traces of the bacteria were detected during random tests by state inspectors.
In 2015, a listeria outbreak rocked Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries, which was forced to get rid of much of its ice cream, even those that tested free from the contamination. They were also slapped with strict precautionary measures by federal regulators in the crisis that led to millions of dollars in losses, some plant operations getting shut down, and major employee layoff.