Imported Ricotta Cheese Recalled Due to Deaths from Listeria

A listeria-linked illness has infected 14 people in 11 states and the District of Columbia, including three fatalities, and has prompted the recall of imported ricotta salata cheese, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday on its website.

On Monday, “Forever Cheese, Inc., voluntarily recalled one lot of Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination,” the CDC said. This is a salty, dry, crumbly cheese, not the soft ricotta cheese used in lasagna or other common dishes.

Listeriosis can be a severe foodbourne bacterial illness, which can be fatal. According to the CDC, local, state and federal investigations reported that the Frescolina cheese is the likely source of the listeria outbreak, and that 12 of the 14 people who became ill claim that they consumed a soft cheese prior to becoming ill.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had also identified the outbreak strain of listeria in a sample of uncut Frescolina cheese, the CDC said.

The cheese was sold to distributors for retailers and restaurants in California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington between June 20th and August 9th, the FDA said.

According to the FDA, the recalled packages are marked with lot number:  T9425 and/or production code 441202.

If you purchased the recalled Frescolina ricotta salata cheese, it is advised that you do not eat it!  This is especially important for pregnant women, older men and women, as well as those with weakened immune systems, who are more at risk. As they say, “when in doubt, throw it out!”

All of the 14 people affected required hospitalization, starting in late March through last month. Four of these patients were tied to pregnancies, two of which were newborn babies, and the remaining ten patients ranged in age from 56 to 87 years old.

So far, three cases were reported in Maryland, one case each in California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York. Listeriosis is believed to have contributed to the deaths in Nebraska and New York, but not to the death in Minnesota.

The CDC did add that, “the investigation is complex because ill persons reported consuming many different cheeses from many different retail locations. No one cheese was reported by the majority of ill persons, suggesting that cross-contamination of other cheeses through cutting boards and utensils may have played a role.”

According to the CDC, approximately 800 cases of laboratory-confirmed listeriosis are reported in the U.S. each year.  Prior outbreaks have included cantaloupe, lettuce, spinach, celery, green onions, Mexican-style soft cheeses, ready-to-eat deli meat and sprouts.

To receive a refund for the recalled cheese, consumers should contact the distributor or the retailer where it was purchased.

For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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