Whole Foods is pulling a brand of organic Roquefort cheese from the shelves of its retail stores and issuing a nationwide recall after sample tests revealed the presence of Listeria Monocytogenes, a notoriously resilient and potentially deadly form of bacteria.
The recall involves Papillion brand organic Roquefort cheese that is cut in store and packaged in clear plastic wrap with a Whole Foods scale label. The Austin, Texas-based natural food grocery chain said that customers can identify the affected cheese by the scale label, which has a PLU starting with 029536.
Anyone who is uncertain about the manufacturer of Roquefort cheese purchased at Whole Foods should discard the product and bring their receipt to the store for a full refund.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials found the bacteria while testing an uncut wheel of the Papillion cheese during routine sampling. All of the sell-by dates are affected by the recall.
Listeria is notorious not only for its lethalness but also for its persistence in food-manufacturing facilities and ability to not only survive in temperatures below freezing, but to thrive in them. Ingesting the bacteria by eating contaminated food can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.
Healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, but it can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Consumers should always seek immediate medical care if they develop these symptoms.
A large outbreak of foodborne Listeria illness that occurred in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1985 was linked to contaminated Mexican-style soft cheese. The outbreak sickened at least 142 people. Among them, 93 cases occurred in pregnant women or their offspring, and the remaining cases occurred in other adults. The outbreak led to 48 deaths, including 20 fetuses, 10 newborns, and 18 non-pregnant adults.
More recently, federal and state health authorities scrambled to halt the spread of Listeria infections traced to Blue Bell ice cream products. That outbreak was blamed for the deaths of three people in Kansas and prompted the company to shut down all of its production facilities until they could be overhauled and sanitized.