FDA Advises Consumers Not to Eat Apple Tree Goat Dairy Goat Cheese Products Because of Possible Listeria ContamInation

Products Test Positive for Listeria Monocytogenes

February 10, 2017

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February 10, 2017

The FDA issued a Warning Letter to the owners of Apple Tree Goat Dairy regarding the findings of Listeria monocytogenes on direct food contact surfaces in the cheese manufacturing facility and significant violations of the cGMP regulation for foods observed during an inspection conducted on September 12 to October 11, 2016."

Fast Facts:

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises consumers not to eat goat cheese products manufactured by Apple Tree Goat Dairy of Richfield, Penn. (Apple Tree), because the products have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
  • Apple Tree manufactures pasteurized and 60-day aged, semi-soft, and hard goat cheeses under the Apple Tree Goat Dairy brand. The products were sold in Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey through Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, West End Farmers Market in Alexandria, Va., Ambler (Penn.) Farmers Market, and Doylestown (Penn.) Farmers Market.
  • Apple Tree recalled four lots of products manufactured in March and July 2016 on September 20, 2016, after samples of these lots collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.  Later in September, Apple Tree expanded its recall to include all of its goat cheeses, but FDA is not aware of any public notification to consumers announcing the expanded recall.  
  • FDA has concerns about Apple Tree’s goat cheese based on a recent inspection of the Apple Tree manufacturing facility, which identified a potentially deadly pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes, in the firm’s finished products and its production environment.
  • Although no illnesses have been reported to date in association with Apple Tree’s goat cheeses, Listeria monocytogenes can cause a serious, potentially life-threatening infection called listeriosis.
  • Symptoms of listeriosis include fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. These symptoms can appear from a few days up to a few weeks after eating contaminated food.  Listeriosis primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems.
  • Consumers who have Apple Tree goat cheeses should throw them away.  In addition, the agency advises consumers to thoroughly disinfect the areas where they had the products, such as the refrigerator, plates, and utensils used to serve the cheese.

What is the Problem and What is Being Done About It?

On September 12, 2016, FDA began its inspection of Apple Tree’s manufacturing facility in Richfield, PA. In addition to observing poor sanitation practices, FDA took environmental samples that identified Listeria monocytogenes in 18 environmental samples from Apple Tree’s processing, packaging, and storage areas, including food-contact surfaces such as a cheese slicer, cheese mold, tables, and plates used to hold cheese before packaging.  FDA also tested Apple Tree’s goat cheese.  Two of the finished goat cheeses and 18 of the environmental samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

On September 20, 2016, Apple Tree initiated a voluntary recall of the four lots of goat cheeses that PDA tested and found positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Later in September, Apple Tree expanded its recall to include all of its goat cheeses, but FDA is not aware of any public notification to consumers announcing the expanded recall.  Accordingly, FDA is issuing this release and working with PDA to monitor this situation and take appropriate actions to protect consumers from Apple Tree goat cheeses that may have been exposed to or contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

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 should tell their health care provider about eating a potentially contaminated food. Symptoms can appear from a few days up to a few weeks after consumption of the contaminated food. Read more about food safety tips for expectant mothers: Food Safety for Moms-To-Be: While You're Pregnant - Listeria.

Who is at Risk?

Listeriosis, the third leading cause of death from food poisoning, targets pregnant women and their fetuses, people with weakened immune systems, and those 65 years of age or older. Listeriosis hits these high-risk groups the hardest, accounting for at least 90 percent of reported Listeria infections and resulting in higher rates of hospitalization and death than most other foodborne bacteria. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.

What Do Retailers or Restaurants Need to Do?

Retailers and restaurants should not serve or sell any Apple Tree goat cheeses and should dispose of them. If they do not know the source of their goat cheeses, they should check with their distributor or Apple Tree.

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

Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to cut, serve, or store Apple Tree goat cheeses.

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 Apple Tree goat cheeses 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. 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 Apple Tree goat cheeses, and should be discarded.

Firms who have re-labeled, re-packed, or used these Apple Tree goat cheeses to produce new products that have not received a thermal kill step should contact the FDA Recall Coordinator in your state to determine whether or not you should initiate a recall of your product(s). View FDA District Recall Coordinators for each state.

What Do Consumers Need To Do?

The FDA urges consumers to not eat any Apple Tree goat cheeses, to check their homes for the cheeses, and to throw them away.

To help avoid these goat cheeses contaminating any other foods, 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.

Additional recommendations for preventing listeriosis are available at the CDC Listeria website.

Who Should be Contacted with Questions about the Product?

Consumers with questions may contact the Apple Tree Goat Dairy at 717-694-0146 Monday thru Friday 8:00am to 5:00pm EST.

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 website:

Firm Issued Press Release from September 20, 2016

For more information, please visit the Product Recall page for the Firm Issued Press Release from September 20, 2016.

Page Last Updated: 11/27/2017
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