Texas Frescolina Ricotta Cheese LawyerSeptember 12, 2012 — An outbreak of Listeria in Frescolina ricotta salata cheese has sickened at least 14 people, who all required hospitalization, and killed three. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is warning that the contaminated product may still be in stores and customers’ refrigerators. Listeria can grow inside a refrigerator and cross-contaminate other products. The cheese was imported from Italy, and has caused food poisoning illnesses or deaths in 11 states.

 

Forever Cheese, Inc., a New York company that imported the cheese from Italy’s Puglia region, has voluntarily recalled the product. They have declined to name the Italian company responsible for the cheese.

Ricotta salata is a cheese made from pasteurized sheep’s milk. It is normally white, dry, salty, and crumbly. Ricotta salata is not the same cheese as soft ricotta used to make lasagnas.

CDC officials said that a collaborative investigation from local, state, and national health authorities has pinpointed the source of the outbreak to the Frescolina ricotta salata cheese. After investigators identified the DNA “fingerprint” unique to this strain of Listeria, they were able to identify people involved in this outbreak. After conducting interviews, 86% of the people reported eating a soft cheese. Because several types of cheeses were identified in interviews, the CDC believes that Frescolina ricotta may have cross-contaminated other cheeses at retail outlets.

After testing an uncut sample of Frescolina ricotta salata, investigators identified the particular strain of Listeria linked to the outbreak.

The CDC is recommending that consumers avoid eating Frescolina ricotta salata and dispose of these products. Furthermore, because the cheese has a four-month shelf life, it is likely that there are still products in stores and in consumers’ refrigerators. Anyone who has purchased this product should dispose of the product immediately in a sealed plastic bag and disinfect any surfaces that may have contacted the cheese. Listeria can spread to other cheeses and foods, and surfaces including cutting boards, utensils, and surfaces. It can grow in the refrigerator.

The CDC has announced the following states and number of illnesses involved in the outbreak:

  • 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)
  • Virginia (1)

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria that causes a severe gastrointestinal illness called listeriosis. Although rarer than E. coli or Salmonella, listeriosis is deadlier. People with this disease often required hospitalization. It can cause life-threatening dehydration or blood infections. People most at risk are the elderly, pregnant women, children, and people with weak immune systems.

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