August 20, 2014

Questions About Whole Foods Market Cheese Recalls

On September 12, 2012, Whole Foods Market recalled Frescolina brand ricotta salata cheese imported by Forever Cheese, Inc. for Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The product was sold in 21 states and Washington, D.C. The cheese was “cut into wedges, packaged in clear plastic wrap, and sold with a Whole Foods Market scale label using PLU 293427,” according to the recall notice. The cheese is linked to a nationwide outbreak that has sickened at least 14 people in 11 states. The FDA issued a nationwide recall for the cheese on September 10, 2012.

However, Whole Foods has not identified the store or distribution center that cut, repackaged, labeled, and distributed the cheese. The public does not know if, in the process of cutting and repackaging the contaminated cheese, other cheeses or other products may have been contaminated.

Since this is not the first Whole Foods Listeria cheese recall of the year, that company should immediately inform the public if there is a connection between the recalls. In July 2012, Whole Foods market in Pittsburgh recalled Jean Perrin Edel de Cleron cheese for Listeria contamination. That cheese sickened one person.

Attorney Fred Pritzker, who is representing two victims of the listeriosis outbreak, said, “if these two outbreaks are related or if there is unsafe sanitation practices contributing to them, the public has a right to know. This knowledge is particularly important to prevent more cases. If cross contamination occurred and other cheeses are or may be adulterated, consumers must be told to avoid them.”

This outbreak has been ongoing since March 25, 2012. There may be other people sickened by the outbreak strain of the bacteria, especially since the incubation period for Listeria monocytogenes can be as long as 70 days. Case patients may not link the cheese consumption with their illness after such a long time period.

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Pritzker added, “Whole Foods Market should immediately inform the public about whether there is a connection between these two Listeria recalls. What was Whole Foods Market told by government regulators and its own sanitarians about practices, if any, that contributed to these two recalls?”

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