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Costco-Linked E. coli Cheese Outbreak Sickens 25

More than two dozen people have been infected by an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that is being preliminarily blamed on cheese that was sold and offered in free samples by Costco.

A public health warning was issued late Thursday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Issaquah, WA-based Costco Wholesale Corporation.  Consumers were told not to eat Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda cheese.

The cheese has been linked to an outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 that has sickened 25 people in five states since mid-October.  It was sold as Costco item 40654 and given to the public in free samples at multiple Costco outlets.

According to the Bravo Farms website, the cheese is “handmade in small wheels and hand dipped in red wax” and made from whole raw milk aged for 2 months.

Costco offered the Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda cheese for sale and also for in-store tasting at its stores in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and the San Diego area in California.

Costco has voluntarily removed the cheese from its stores and used purchase records to notify consumers who may have purchased or sampled the cheese between Oct. 5 and Nov. 1.  Consumers are being told that they can return the product for a refund.

The FDA says consumers who purchased the Gouda cheese should return it in a closed plastic bag or place it in a sealed trash can to prevent its consumption by people or animals, including wild animals.

The number of ill persons identified in each state with this strain is as follows: AZ (11), CA (1), CO (8), NM (3) and NV (2). There have been 9 reported hospitalizations, one  possible case of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and no deaths.

E. coli O157:H7 symptoms include diarrhea and abdominal cramps.  Some illnesses may last longer and can be more severe.

Rarely, as symptoms of diarrhea improve, a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) can occur; this can happen at any age but is most common in children under 5 years old and in older adults.

People with HUS should be hospitalized immediately, because their kidneys may stop working and they may be at risk for other serious health problems.

© Food Safety News
  • jmunsell

    This outbreak provides us a current, and superlative opportunity to discuss what future actions should be taken to protect consumers and promote public health.
    Who is the responsible culprit here against whom we should place responsibility for 25 sickened folks in 5 states? Some would suggest we sue the dickens out of Costco: after all, the free samples were distributed in stores under their control. Yup, Costco is responsible, has deep pockets, constituting a veritable cornucopia of financial rewards via litigation.
    On the other hand, if we make Costco the scapegoat here, we are unwittingly insulating the SOURCE of contamination (the cheese maker) from accountability. Until we identify the true ORIGIN of contamination, and focus all corrective actions (including litigation) at the SOURCE, outbreaks will continue.
    E.coli & Salmonella are classified as “enteric” bacteria, which by definition means they emanate from within animals’ intestines, and by extension, proliferate on manure-covered hides. Costco does not have intestines or manure-covered hides on their premises, and should be exempted from responsibility in this outbreak. My perception is that e.coli resided in the whole raw milk utilized in the production of the Gouda Cheese. Therefore, the milk producer unwittingly allowed E.coli residing on cow udders to enter the milk supply, indicating a failure in sanitation protocol in raw milk production. How about Bravo Farms? Perhaps they need to purchase only pasteurized milk, in which bacteria is killed via the pasteurization process.
    The same scenario has played itself out for decades in raw meat & poultry. E.coli & Salmonella-laced meat & poultry is NOT being contaminated at restaurants, retail meat markets, and cafeterias. These facilities are merely the destination of previously-contaminated meat. If our desire is to prevent future outbreaks and recalls, it behooves us to determine the SOURCE of contamination, and then Force the Source to clean up its act.
    An integral requirement for identifying the SOURCE is Traceback Protocol, which USDA/FSIS is only now identifying as being beneficial. Historically, the agency has been reluctant to perform tracebacks, because such tracebacks will invariably end up at the doorsteps of the largest slaughter establishments. The Big Four packers now slaughter 88% of all our feedlot steers and heifers, in high-speed facilities where fast chain speeds create potentially insanitary conditions. FSIS is paralyzed with fear of litigation from the Big Four if the agency were ever to attempt MEANINGFUL enforcement actions against the industry’s behemoths. Instead, the agency focues its enforcement actions against the victimized downstream destination facilities, expecting these downstream facilities to (a) detect invisible enteric bacteria, and (b) remove the bacteria. Interestingly, neither the source slaughter providers or FSIS were able to detect and/or remove the bacteria at the SOURCE.
    Until Americans and our legal system develop the courage to traceback to the source, and to Force the Source to implement meaningful corrective actions, outbreaks and illnesses will continue unabated.
    John Munsell

  • Steve

    I sort of enjoy watching people and companies dance around the “recall” word.

  • John Munsell

    This outbreak provides us a current, and superlative opportunity to discuss what future actions should be taken to protect consumers and promote public health.
    Who is the responsible culprit here against whom we should place responsibility for 25 sickened folks in 5 states? Some would suggest we sue the dickens out of Costco: after all, the free samples were distributed in stores under their control. Yup, Costco is responsible, has deep pockets, constituting a veritable cornucopia of financial rewards via litigation.
    On the other hand, if we make Costco the scapegoat here, we are unwittingly insulating the SOURCE of contamination (the cheese maker) from accountability. Until we identify the true ORIGIN of contamination, and focus all corrective actions (including litigation) at the SOURCE, outbreaks will continue.
    E.coli & Salmonella are classified as “enteric” bacteria, which by definition means they emanate from within animals’ intestines, and by extension, proliferate on manure-covered hides. Costco does not have intestines or manure-covered hides on their premises, and should be exempted from responsibility in this outbreak. My perception is that e.coli resided in the whole raw milk utilized in the production of the Gouda Cheese. Therefore, the milk producer unwittingly allowed E.coli residing on cow udders to enter the milk supply, indicating a failure in sanitation protocol in raw milk production. How about Bravo Farms? Perhaps they need to purchase only pasteurized milk, in which bacteria is killed via the pasteurization process.
    The same scenario has played itself out for decades in raw meat & poultry. E.coli & Salmonella-laced meat & poultry is NOT being contaminated at restaurants, retail meat markets, and cafeterias. These facilities are merely the destination of previously-contaminated meat. If our desire is to prevent future outbreaks and recalls, it behooves us to determine the SOURCE of contamination, and then Force the Source to clean up its act.
    An integral requirement for identifying the SOURCE is Traceback Protocol, which USDA/FSIS is only now identifying as being beneficial. Historically, the agency has been reluctant to perform tracebacks, because such tracebacks will invariably end up at the doorsteps of the largest slaughter establishments. The Big Four packers now slaughter 88% of all our feedlot steers and heifers, in high-speed facilities where fast chain speeds create potentially insanitary conditions. FSIS is paralyzed with fear of litigation from the Big Four if the agency were ever to attempt MEANINGFUL enforcement actions against the industry’s behemoths. Instead, the agency focues its enforcement actions against the victimized downstream destination facilities, expecting these downstream facilities to (a) detect invisible enteric bacteria, and (b) remove the bacteria. Interestingly, neither the source slaughter providers or FSIS were able to detect and/or remove the bacteria at the SOURCE.
    Until Americans and our legal system develop the courage to traceback to the source, and to Force the Source to implement meaningful corrective actions, outbreaks and illnesses will continue unabated.
    John Munsell

  • Maybe costco not so gouda? I was in denver mowing down free samples last week. Luckily no gouda there, otherwise I would have eaten a lot of e-coli!