FDA Investigates Presence of Listeria in Some Hispanic-Style Cheeses

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning consumers not to eat any of the following brands of cheese manufactured or repackaged by Roos Foods of Kenton, Del.: Mexicana, Amigo, Santa Rosa De Lima, and Anita.  Roos Foods has voluntarily recalled all lots and all types of cheese distributed under these brands.  These products were distributed through retail stores in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis and the presence of Listeria in Hispanic-style cheese products made by Roos Foods and sold in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

On Feb. 21, 2014, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) reported  that Listeria monocytogenes had been found in cheese products manufactured by Roos Foods of Kenton, Delaware. This followed an earlier warning VDACS issued  on Feb. 15, 2014 that the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes was isolated from a sample of Cuajada en Terron (Fresh Cheese Curd) manufactured by Roos Foods and collected by VDACS food safety inspectors at Mega Mart, a retail store in Manassas, Va. Listeria monocytogenes is a bacteria linked to a rare and serious illness, listeriosis.

The strain of Listeria monocytogenes identified was the same strain of the bacteria that has caused 8 cases of listeriosis in two states. The CDC reports that a total of eight persons infected with the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from two states. The number of ill people identified in each state is as follows: California (1), Maryland (7).

Among persons for whom information is available, dates that illness was diagnosed range from Aug. 1, 2013 to Nov. 27, 2013. Seven of the eight ill persons were hospitalized. Five of the illnesses were related to a pregnancy; two of these were diagnosed in two mother–newborn pairs, and one in only the newborn. The three other illnesses occurred among adults.  One death was reported in California.  All ill persons were reported to be of Hispanic ethnicity.  According to the CDC, the investigation into the source of these illnesses is ongoing.

On Feb. 19, 2014, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (MDHMH) warned consumers  that Listeria had likely been found in cheese products manufactured by Roos Foods. The MDHMH reported that Roos Foods manufactures cheeses under the Santa Rosa de Lima, Amigo, Mexicana, Suyapa, La Chapina, and La Purisima Crema Nica brand, and advised consumers not to eat any cheese products made by Roos Foods, or foods that have been made with these cheeses.  MDHMH is conducting further testing to confirm the presence of Listeria in these cheese products and to determine whether or not it is Listeria monocytogenes.  The District of Columbia issued a similar warning  to consumers on Feb. 20, 2014.

The FDA provides the following FAQs:

What are the Symptoms of Listeriosis?
Listeriosis is a rare and serious illness caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes. Persons in a higher-risk category, including pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, and the elderly, who experience fever after eating any of the Roos Foods cheeses listed above should seek medical care and tell the health care provider about eating the potentially contaminated cheese.

Who is at Risk? 
Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups. These groups include the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as cancer). In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies, though the mother herself rarely becomes seriously ill.

What is being recalled?

Roos Foods has recalled all lots of its Cuajada En Terron, Cuajada/Cuajadita Cacera, Cuajada Fresca, Queso Fresca Round, and the Queso Dura Viejo hard cheeses marketed under its Mexicana, Amigo, and Santa Rosa De Lima brands.  Roos Foods is also recalling Queso Fresco marketed under the Anita brand. The products are packaged in flexible plastic bags and rigid plastic clam shell packages in 12 oz. and 16 oz. sizes under the brand names: Mexicana, Amigo, Santa Rosa De Lima, and Anita. These products were distributed through retail stores in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

What Do Consumers Need To Do?
Consumers should not eat any of the following brands of cheese manufactured or repackaged by Roos Foods of Kenton, Delaware: Mexicana, Amigo, Santa Rosa De Lima, and Anita.  Roos Foods has voluntarily recalled all lots of these brands.   These products were distributed through retail stores in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Consumers should check their homes for these cheeses and discard them.  Recommendations for preventing listeriosis are available at the CDC Listeria website: http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/prevention.html

Listeria monocytogenes can grow at refrigerator temperatures, about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). The longer ready-to-eat refrigerated foods are stored in the refrigerator, the more opportunity Listeria has to grow.

Listeria monocytogenes can grow in cut cheese at room and refrigerator temperatures. Listeria can also spread to other cheeses cut and served on the same cutting board or stored in the same area. For that reason, retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators may wish to consider whether other cheeses available for sale could have been cross-contaminated from the potentially contaminated cheese and should be discarded.

Because Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures in foods like cheeses, the FDA recommends and many state codes require that cheeses be discarded within seven days of the date that they are opened in a retail establishment.

Source: FDA

 

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