MINNEAPOLIS--(Listeria infections (listeriosis) linked to imported Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese distributed by Forever Cheese, Inc., of New York, which issued a recall on September 10, 2012. On September 12, Whole Foods Market also issued a recall of the cheese, which it had cut into wedges, packaged in clear plastic wrap and sold with a Whole Foods Market scale label.)--This week the CDC alerted the public to an outbreak of
“The recalled cheese was cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap with a Whole Foods Market scale label…”
The CDC is reporting 14 confirmed cases of Listeria infections in 11 states. All 14 of the people were hospitalized, and 3 of them died.
Attorney Fred Pritzker, who is representing two people who were sickened in this outbreak, is calling for the CDC, FDA and state health departments to protect consumers by naming all of the cheese products, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and restaurants associated with this outbreak.
“Admittedly, health agencies must utilize discretion in identifying companies and products implicated in outbreaks. However, the health of consumers must drive these disclosures, not the financial implications for companies in the supply chain of adulterated products,” continued Pritzker. “In this outbreak, there will be more cases and greater amounts of adulterated cheese identified in the days and weeks that follow. Therefore, the public needs to know as soon as possible all the products implicated in this recall and the places (including the “retail locations”) where they were repackaged and sold.”
According to the CDC public announcement of this outbreak, a “retail location” cut and repackaged the recalled cheese and likely cross-contaminated other cheese. “If one retail location likely played such an important role in spreading the pathogen from the Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese to other high-end cheeses, government officials and the companies involved should immediately identify the retailer and anyone else in the supply chain,” continued Pritzker. “If cheese sold by Whole Foods has been implicated in this outbreak, consumers have a right to know, particularly because they would have purchased the cheese with a Whole Foods label on it.”
Stores in the following states are affected by the Whole Foods cheese recall: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
Pritzker points out that an earlier Whole Foods cheese recall was linked to one case of listeriosis. In a Listeria-cheese recall on July 12, the Allegheny County (PA) Health Department and Whole Foods Market announced that Jean Perrin Edel de Cleron cheese sold in the East Liberty Whole Foods Market store between May 20 and July 3, 2012 was recalled because some samples tested positive for Listeria and one man from Pennsylvania had contracted listeriosis. According to the recall notice, “The recalled cheese was cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap with a Whole Foods Market scale label…” If the genetic finger print from that recall matches the PFGE patterns from the recalled Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese, this raises even more questions about how or whether cross contamination occurred and who was responsible for it, according to Pritzker.
“The CDC report states that outbreak patients consumed a number of soft cheeses that were likely cross-contaminated by the recalled Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese. While I understand the hardship that may befall a producer of a cheese implicated in a recall that was cross-contaminated through no fault of its own, it is still vitally important to identify the product so consumers can be aware of and avoid the risk,” said Pritzker. “After all, it matters little to a Listeria victim who actually adulterated a product; only that it was adulterated and must not be eaten.”
The number of CDC-confirmed listeriosis cases in each state is as follows: California (1), Colorado (1), District of Columbia (1), Maryland (3), Minnesota (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (1), and Virginia (1). Pritzker believes these numbers will grow if the CDC and other health officials continue to operate under a cloak of secrecy.
Victims of this listeriosis outbreak and their families can contact food safety attorney Fred Pritzker by calling his national food safety law firm, PritzkerOlsen, P.A., at 1-888-377-8900 (toll free). The firm has won millions for Listeria food poisoning victims. The firm represents food poisoning victims throughout the United States and has offices at Plaza VII, Suite 2950, 45 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402.