In Europe, raw milk cheese is a big part of the culinary tradition. In the United States, of course, this type of product is more uniquely regulated state-by-state. Obviously, raw-milk advocates in the United States argue that pasteurization ruins the pure and rich flavor of cheese but the US Food and Drug Administration likes to warn that “raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your family.”
Well, in this case, the US FDA was correct, as the agency is now conducting a multi-state investigation over a listeriosis outbreak linked to soft, raw milk cheese made by the Vulto Creamery company. As such, of course, the company has issued a recall on all of its lots of the following types of raw milk cheese:
More specifically, too, the raw milk cheeses have been distributed nationwide, but particularly in retail locations throughout:
In response to the outbreak—and a pending lawsuit over a related-death—Astoria Bier and Cheese (NY) general manager, Mike Fisher, comments, “We’re all talking about it, because it’s surprising, sad, and scary to everyone who is in the business of selling higher-quality cheeses.” Astoria Bier and Cheese, of course, is one of the companies which carries Vulto Creamery but, fortunately, they were out of stock when the recall was issued. He goes on to say, “The question of what this says about raw-milk cheese has certainly come up.”
Similarly, Washington DC artisanal cheese shop, Righteous Cheese, sent out a notice after the recall was announced in order to warn customers who had already purchased the affected cheese from their store. In its notice, the company said, “Ultimately, it is up to each up us to decide if we want to take certain risks for the benefits,” reminding that this type of cheese can have “an incredible amount of health benefits” which are usually stripped away during pasteurization.
So far, six people have been hospitalized for the infection—and two have died—between Sept 1, 2016 and Jan 22, 2017.
Listeria infections is caused by a bacteria, and it afflicts approximately 2,600 people in any given year. The illness can be severe and invasive, particularly for the very young and the very old (people who may have weak or compromised immune systems). Listeriosis symptoms can resemble the flu: chills, vomiting, severe headache, body aches. More serious listeriosis symptoms can include: meningitis, extreme infections of the blood, and even death (as has been the case here, alas).