Listeria outbreak in Crave Brothers cheese

Another listeria outbreak has been linked to cheese killing one person so far and causing a miscarriage in a pregnant woman, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Last year, I reported on a listeria outbreak in kosher cheese.)

Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Company, based in Wisconsin, issued a voluntary recall for three specialty cheese products shipped nationwide late last week, and on Monday the CDC announced an extensive investigation of the oubreak, which has sickened a total of five people in four Midwestern states as of the latest count.

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Listeria can cause serious and sometimes deadly infections in young children, elderly folks, and those with weakened immune systems. Its symptoms include high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. CDC officials particularly worry about pregnant women since the bacteria can lead to miscarriages and stillbirths.

In a press briefing last month, CDC officials acknowledged that pregnant woment are 10 times more likely than the general population to get listeria and that pregnant Hispanic women are 24 times more likely to get it. About 90 percent of listeria infections occur in high-risk groups including seniors and newborns.

Most of the outbreaks have been linked to soft cheeses—often Mexican-style cheeses like queso fresco—though the deadliest one was due to contaminated cantaloupes. New food safety laws may reduce listeria outbreaks in the future by providing new powers to Food and Drug Administration officials to tighten regulations and inspections for produce and food manufacturing facilities.

While it’s impossible to completely eliminate listeria risk, avoiding cheeses made from unpasteurized milk can help lower your chances of getting sick; those at higher risk may also wanted to avoid Mexican-style cheeses.

The culprit in the latest outbreak is a semi-soft European-style cheese, and I should note that it was made from pasteurized milk. The recalled products include:

1. Les Frères (LF225 2/2.5#) with a make date of 7-1-13 or prior, packaged in white plastic with a green and gold label.

2. Petit Frère (PF88 8/8 oz) with a make date of 7-1-13 or prior, packaged in small round wooden boxes.

3. Petit Frère with Truffles (PF88T 8/8 oz) with a make date of 7-1-13 or prior, packaged in small round wooden boxes.

Consumers who have purchased any of these products should return the cheese to the place of purchase for a full refund or discard it. The company has set up a hotline at 920-478-4887 to answer questions.