October 21, 2014

Forever Cheese Listeria Outbreak Grows to 20, Lawsuit Filed against Whole Foods Market

The Listeria outbreak linked to Forever Cheese, Inc. Frescolina ricotta salata has grown to 20 CDC-confirmed illnesses. 4 adults and an unborn baby died.  The number of confirmed cases in each state is as follows: California (3), Colorado (1), District of Columbia (1), Maryland (3), Minnesota (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (3), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (1), and Washington (1).

The contaminated ricotta salata was distributed to retailers and restaurants. One of the retailers was Whole Foods Market, which cut and repackaged the cheese with a Whole Foods label. A lawsuit filed against Whole Foods Market and Forever Cheese on behalf of a listeriosis victim claims this repackaging by Whole Foods caused other cheeses to become contaminated with the dangerous pathogen.

Attorney Fred Pritzker, a national food safety lawyer, filed the lawsuit on behalf of a Pennsylvania couple in connection with the husband’s severe case of listeriosis and hospitalization after consuming gourmet cheese purchased from a Whole Foods store in Pittsburgh. According to the complaint, the man suffered “profound nervous-system and cognitive dysfunction, including ventilator-dependent respiratory failure.” The suit seeks comprehensive financial recovery and damages for pain and suffering. The suit (CV12-4634) was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, the state where Forever Cheese, Inc. is located.

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After Pritzker filed the lawsuit,  Whole Foods expanded its cheese recall and Forever Cheese announced they were expanding its cheese recall to include all of the Ricotta Salata imported from Italy. The recalled cheese was sold to distributors in Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas,Utah, Virginia, and Washington state.

If you have eaten ricotta salata or any other deli cheese and have experienced the symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes food poisoning, which include flu-like fever, muscle aches, upset stomach, diarrhea, stiff neck, headache, loss of balance, confusion, or convulsions, see your doctor immediately. Pregnant women may experience only mild symptoms, but the illness can lead to stillbirth and miscarriage. The time lag between eating contaminated food and experiencing symptoms can be as long as 70 days, so anyone who ate cheese in mid-September may not get sick until late November.

The outbreak strain of the bacteria has been genetically matched to the Listeria bacteria found in the cheese. That is proof that the cheese is the source of the illnesses. In fact, the Italian government has seized four varieties of the cheese. The following translation is provided by Google.

“Notice is hereby given that as a result of the activity conducted by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Institute of Health and the police, to determine the cause of human listeriosis in the United states as a result of consumption of ricotta from “Farms Chiarappa” with a factory in Conversano (BA), the public prosecutor in Bari has ordered the seizure of all the national territory of the following products: Ricotta frescolina mars type Toscanella, Ricotta Tower Mars, Ricotta roasted frescolina Mars, Ricotta marzotica Mars Greek type, and Ricotta marzotica Mars.”

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