For a while we were getting regular cheese recalls in the U.S. because of bacterial contamination - usually Listeria monocytogenes, but sometimes also a Staph, E.coli or Salmonella bacteria. In fact, I called cheese the most dangerous food of 2010 (see Post for 12/22/10 -"Is Cheese our Most Dangerous Food?").
But recently the food safety spotlight has focused more on other foods. Now it seems to be turning back to cheese, with two relatively small but interesting recalls. The New York State Agriculture Commissioner has warned people not to eat certain kinds of fresh cheese - "Queso Fresco" made by Quesos CentroAmericano Corp. of Freeport, New York. This type of cheese is particularly popular with the Latin population of the U.S. The reason for the recall: possible Staphylococcus aureus contamination.
This bacteria can give you a really bad case of food poisoning if you happen to be vulnerable (beware - young children, older consumers and those who have serious health conditions). Anyone who is serious about avoiding food poisoning should best avoid unpasteurized fresh cheeses. Symptoms of Staph food poisoning: nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping and weakness. In more severe cases, there can also be headache, muscle cramping and changes in blood pressure and pulse rate. Thankfully, Staph food poisoning usually only lasts about 2 days.
Then there was another, small U.S. recall of cheese imported from England -one of my husband's favorites - “Royal Blue Stilton. ” The cheese is being recalled by Atlanta Corporation, a food importer and distributor based in Elizabeth, New Jersey. This food distributor decided to test this cheese for Listeria monocytogenes, after another cheese importer, Schratter Foods Incorporated, a Fairfield of New York, recalled cheeses that were made by the same English dairy (Quenby Hall Dairy - see Alert for May 17 and the post on June 11). Sure enough, theirs also tested positive for Listeria.
Luckily only one big wheel of this cheese had reached the marketplace, chopped up in chunks of course. But what took them so long? The other recall took place almost a month before they announced theirs, and it doesn't take so long to test for Listeria (I have done it).
Watch out for this Stilton cheese in the store or in your refrigerator. They will be labeled “Product of England” “Keep Refrigerated” “Royal Blue Stilton” “English Semi-Hard Cheese". You'll also see a small circular English flag in the upper left, and the logo of the exporter “Coombe Castle International” in the upper center. The rest of the suspect cheese is being quarantined and destroyed by this importer.
To your good health.