FDA Investigates a Multistate Outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes Infections Linked to Imported Frescolina Marte Brand Ricotta Salata Cheese
On this page:
- What are the Symptoms of Listeriosis?
The Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata cheese was sold to supermarkets, restaurants, and wholesale distributors in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington between September 1, 2011 and August 31, 2012.
Listeriosis is a rare and serious illness caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria called Listeria. Persons who think they might have become ill should consult their doctor. A person with listeriosis usually has fever and muscle aches.
Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups. These groups include older adults, people with compromised immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as cancer), unborn babies and newborns. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and serious illness or death in newborn babies, though the mother herself rarely becomes seriously ill.
Consumers should not eat imported Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata cheese. Many people who bought the cheese may not know the manufacturer because it was distributed in large wheels to retailers or restaurants to break down into smaller servings or packages. Consumers who have purchased ricotta salata since September 1, 2011, may want to ask their retailer if that store sold relabeled Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata.
If you believe that you have purchased any of this cheese please contact your distributor or retailer for a full refund.
Ricotta salata is a salty, white cheese made from pasteurized sheep’s milk. It is NOT the same as soft ricotta cheese sold in tubs and frequently used to make lasagna.
The CDC reports that cross-contamination from the recalled Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata cheese to other cheeses is one possible explanation for several illnesses in this outbreak. This may have occurred when another cheese was cut with the same knife or on the same surface as the recalled cheese. Therefore, consumers who purchased the recalled cheese should consider discarding other cheeses that they cut with the same knife or on the same surface as the recalled cheese. This is particularly important for pregnant women, persons with weakened immune systems, and older adults, since they are at increased risk of severe outcomes from listeriosis.
Listeria can grow at refrigerator temperatures, about 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). The longer ready-to-eat refrigerated foods are stored in the refrigerator, the more opportunity Listeria has to grow.
It is very important that consumers clean their refrigerators and other food preparation surfaces and cheese cutting utensils thoroughly that may have come in contact with the contaminated cheese. Consumers should follow these simple steps:
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
- Wipe up spills in the refrigerator immediately and clean the refrigerator regularly.
- Always wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitization process.
Contaminated cheese may still be in stores and restaurants.
Retailers who have cut and packaged this cheese need to be concerned about cross contamination of cutting surfaces and utensils through contact with imported Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata. Regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in cutting may help to minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.
Listeria can grow in cut cheese at room and refrigerator temperatures. Listeria can also spread to other cheeses cut and served on the same cutting board or stored in the same area.
For that reason, retailers may wish to consider whether other cheeses available for sale could have been cross-contaminated from the recalled cheese and should be discarded.
Because Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures in foods like cheeses, the FDA recommends and many state codes require that cheeses be discarded within 7 days of the date that they are opened in a retail establishment.
Do not sell or serve recalled Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata cheese distributed by Forever Cheese, Inc. If you do not know the source of your ricotta salata cheese, check with your supplier.
- Dispose of recalled cheese.
- Wash and sanitize cheese display cases and refrigerators where contaminated cheese was stored.
- Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to cut, serve, or store contaminated cheese.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
See the FDA Bulletin, Advice to Food Establishments that Sell or Repackage Cheese Products, for additional information.
If you have any questions please call Forever Cheese (888) 930-8693, contact: Jeff DiMeo from 9 am to 5pm EST and mention Recall.
Consumers who show any signs of illness from listeriosis should consult their health care provider. The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD or consult the fda.gov website.
FDA will update the public on the progress of this investigation as more information becomes available.
The information in this release reflects the FDA’s best efforts to communicate what it has learned from the manufacturer and the state and local public health agencies involved in the investigation. The agency will update this page as more information becomes available.
For more information:
- CDC: Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Imported Frescolina Brand Ricotta Salata Cheese
- FoodSafety.gov on Listeria