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Cheese implicated in French outbreak recalled in Canada

An E. coli outbreak in France traced to raw milk cheese has prompted Canadian officials to initiate a recall of imported Reblochon cheese because of possible contamination.

Officials in France announced this past Friday that retailer Leclerc was conducting a limited recall of Reblochon produced by cheesemaker Chabert. The recall was expanded Monday to include all Reblochon made at the production facility in the French Alps and sold by various retailers, including Carrefour and Intermarché. The recall in France involves about 350 tons of cheese.

No illnesses have been confirmed in Canada in connection with the recalled cheese, according to a notice posted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). In Canada, Les Dépendances is recalling Haute Montagne brand raw milk cheese “Reblochon de Savoie au lait cru” from the marketplace because of the possible E. coli O26 contamination. 

Consumers should not consume the recalled cheese, according to the CFIA notice. The CFIA did not indicate how many pounds of cheese are under recall in Canada. The cheese may have been distributed nationwide in Canada, but it was definitely sent to Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

It was not immediately known Monday night whether any of the implicated cheese has been imported to the United States.

Consumers in Canada can identify the recalled Haute Montagne brand cheese, which is sold in 450- to 550-gram packages, by looking for all lot numbers starting with “8CR” and a UPC number of 8 31014 00139 0.

Seven children in France have been confirmed with E. coli O26 infections linked to the recalled cheese. Six of them have developed hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a type of kidney failure that can necessitate organ transplants. In severe cases, patients die.

Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated cheese and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should immediately seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the pathogen.

“Food contaminated with E. coli O26 may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick,” according to the Canadian recall notice. “Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea. In severe cases of illness, some people may have seizures or strokes, need blood transfusions…”

Both Canada and France have standing warnings from public health officials regarding the dangers of unpasteurized, raw dairy products. Raw milk and foods such as cheese that are made with it are at high risk of being contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites and other pathogens. Pasteurization kills pathogens in dairy and other products such as juice.

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