Food

FDA Investigated Listeria Outbreak to Soft Cheeses Distributed by Karoun Dairies, Inc.

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October 23, 2015

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials are investigating several cases of listeriosis. According to the CDC, the outbreak appears to be over as of October 23, 2015.

What was the Problem and What was Done About It?  

The FDA, CDC and state and local officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis.  

According to CDC, 30 people infected with one of five rare and closely-related Listeria monocytogenes strains were reported from 10 states since August 8, 2010. The number of ill people from each state was California (18), Colorado (1), Illinois (2), Massachusetts (2), Michigan (1), New York (2), Ohio (1), Tennessee (1), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). Twenty- eight (28) people were hospitalized. Six of the illnesses were pregnancy-related, with one resulting in a fetal loss. There were three deaths reported, one in California in 2012, one in California in 2015, and one in Ohio in 2012. 

Twenty-one (75 percent) of the twenty- eight ill people with available information reported eating soft cheeses in the month before becoming ill. Three of seven ill people who specified a brand of soft cheese reported brands distributed by Karoun Dairies, Inc. of San Fernando, California, according to the CDC. An additional ill person likely ate cheese from Karoun Dairies, Inc., based on this person’s description of the cheese packaging and label.

The CDC reports that epidemiologic and laboratory information indicate that soft cheeses distributed by Karoun Dairies, Inc. were the likely source of this outbreak. According to the CDC, the outbreak appears to be over as of October 23, 2015.

On September 16, 2015, Karoun Dairies, Inc. voluntarily recalled and stopped distributing certain cheeses due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The products were distributed to retail outlets, including food service outlets and supermarkets throughout the United States. The products are vacuum packed, in jars or in pails, and have weights varying from 5 ounces to 30 pounds. 

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) analysis of two environmental samples collected by the FDA in September 2015 from the Central Valley Cheese, Inc. manufacturing facility in Turlock, California, showed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes that is highly related to the outbreak strains found in people who were made ill. Central Valley Cheese, Inc. manufactures cheese for Karoun Dairies. Additionally, WGS analysis determined that five environmental samples collected from the same facility in 2010 were also highly related to the outbreak strains. 

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What are the Symptoms of Listeriosis?

Listeriosis is a rare but serious illness usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes. Anyone who experiences fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, or develops fever and chills while pregnant after eating any of the products listed below should seek medical care and tell the health care provider about eating the potentially contaminated cheese. Symptoms can appear from a few days up to a few weeks after consumption of the contaminated food.

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Who is at Risk?

Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups. These groups include the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as cancer). In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.

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What Specific Products were Recalled?  

This recall is limited to cheese with the UPC codes in the table below sold nationwide. No other Karoun Dairies, Inc. product is affected by this recall. The recalled products listed below were distributed to retail outlets, including food service accounts and supermarkets in the U.S.

Item NameUPC CodesUse by Dates
Ackwai7 96252 00123 9
7 96252 01123 8
7 96252 00325 7
7 96252 02223 4
7 96252 03223 3
1/6/2016
California7 96252 90030 31/5/2016
Cotija7 96252 80037 5
7 96252 80036 8
7 96252 80032 0
2/29/2016
Farmers Goat Fresh7 96252 50016 911/26/2015
Fresco7 96252 80083 2
7 96252 80081 8
11/8/2015
Fresh Cheese/Panela7 96252 03226 4
7 96252 03227 1
7 96252 00227 4
7 96252 00226 7
7 96252 00228 1
7 96252 00122 2
7 96252 00126 0
7 96252 60001 2
7 96252 80074 0
7 96252 22003 6
7 96252 80070 2
7 96252 00127 7
12/31/2015
Feta7 96252 22004 3
7 96252 22006 7
7 96252 22007 4
7 96252 22005 0
7 96252 22022 7
7 96252 22002 9
7 96252 11003 0
7 96252 40003 2
7 96252 11024 5
7 96252 11025 2
7 96252 22012 8
7 96252 40025 4
7 96252 12034 2
3/7/2016
Goat Milk Feta7 96252 50001 53/2/2016
Mozzarella7 96252 70012 5
7 96252 70013 2
7 96252 12014 5
7 96252 12015 2
1/2/2016
Paneer7 96252 70008 8
7 96252 70014 9
7 96252 70019 4
7 96252 70018 7
1/7/2016
Queso Blanco7 96252 80004 7
7 96252 80005 4
7 96252 80043 6
 
String Cheese7 96252 00019 5
7 96252 00020 1
7 96252 00035 5
7 96252 00015 7
7 96252 00025 6
7 96252 00041 6
7 96252 00042 3
7 96252 00040 9
7 96252 00005 8
7 96252 00008 9
7 96252 00038 6
7 96252 00028 7
7 96252 00018 8
7 96252 00013 3
7 96252 00017 1
7 96252 00016 4
7 96252 00039 3
7 96252 00022 5
3/16/2016
Ani7 96252 01125 2
7 96252 00323 3
1/5/2016
Nabulsi7 96252 03225 7
7 96252 00225 0
7 96252 00223 6
7 96252 00125 3
12/29/2016
Yanni Grilling7 96252 90024 2
7 96252 90029 7
12/23/2015

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What Do Restaurants and Retailers Need To Do?

Retailers and restaurants should not serve any of the recalled products and should dispose of them. If they do not know the source of their dairy products, they should check with the supplier.

Wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated dairy products were stored.

Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to cut, serve, or store potentially contaminated dairy products. 

Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process. 

Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators who have processed and packaged any potentially contaminated dairy products need to be concerned about cross contamination of cutting surfaces and utensils through contact with the potentially contaminated products.

Regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing may help to minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination. 

Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures in foods like dairy products. The FDA recommends, and many state codes require, that cheeses be discarded within seven days of the date that they are opened in a retail establishment. Listeria can also cross contaminate other food cut and served on the same cutting board or stored in the same area.

Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators may wish to consider whether other foods available for sale could have been cross-contaminated from the potentially contaminated dairy products, and should be discarded.

See the FDA Bulletin, Advice to Food Establishments that Sell or Repackage Cheese Products, for additional information.

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What Do Consumers Need To Do? 

Consumers should not eat any of the recalled products and should check their homes for these dairy products. Karoun Dairies urges any consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund, or discard them. 

Recommendations for preventing listeriosis are available at the CDC Listeria website: http://www.cdc.gov/listeria/prevention.html.  

Listeria monocytogenes 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 thoroughly clean their refrigerators and other food preparation surfaces and cheese cutting utensils that may have come in contact with the potentially 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; then 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.

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Who Should be Contacted? 

Consumers with questions may contact Karoun Dairies, Inc. at 1-866-272-9393, Monday thru Friday 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. PST.

The FDA also encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern time, or to consult the fda.gov website: http://www.fda.gov.  

Additional Information

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Page Last Updated: 10/23/2015
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