Update: 9/12, 10:50 a.m. The CDC is now reporting at least one death in connection with the Listeria outbreak related to imported cheese, according to USA Today. Three deaths total have been reported among those who were sickened after eating Frescolina ricotta salata, but Listeria has not been confirmed as a contributing factor in the other two yet. The government agency and state officials are investigating those deaths.
Original story, published 9/11, 4:45 p.m.: Forever Cheese Inc. is recalling all ricotta salata Frescolina brand cheese due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports. The cheese, imported from Italy by Long Island's Forever Cheese Inc., was distributed to retailers and restaurants in 18 states and Washington, D.C., including California. There have already been at least 14 reported illnesses in 11 states, including several hospitalizations.
Listeria is a nasty organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems, the FDA says.
The cheese was distributed between June 20 and Aug. 9 to supermarkets, restaurants and wholesalers.
The cheese in question (or questionable cheese) is coded 441202 on the original wheel. GourmetFoodStore.com describes it thusly: “Not your average ricotta cheese, this is a very rare Italian cheese made of ewes' milk, with a pate that is pure white, very firm and dense — but with a slightly saltier flavor (salata means salty in Italian). It is shaped like a cone and encrusted with crushed red pepper for a spicy kick.”
The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating the outbreak, which was discovered after illnesses were reported after people ate the ricotta. The government is contacting “each and every distributor and retailer in an effort to recall any and all remaining product in the marketplace.”
If you believe that you have purchased any of the cheese, contact the seller for a full refund. If you have any questions, call Forever Cheese at (888) 930-8693 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST and ask for Jeff DiMeo. He will try to calm you down.
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