FDA warns consumers about Listeria risk in Estrella cheese

Estrella creamery cheese recallThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers about a possible Listeria contamination in cheeses from Washington state-based Estrella Family Creamery.

The agency said environmental samples and a product sample collected during its August inspection at the cheesemaker tested positive for listeria.

"All Estrella cheeses put consumers at risk for Listeria," the FDA said in its warning.

Earlier this year Estrella had two other recalls of its cheese, which is made from raw cow and goat milk. Cheeses made from raw milk carry a higher risk for contamination and cheeses than pasteurized milk which has been heated to kill bacteria.

Estrella cheeses are sold at specialty cheese shops, farmers markets, its farm store in Montesano, Wash. and over the Internet in wheels or cut to order in retail markets. No illness have been reported yet from the cheese, according to a statement on the creamery's website. The Listeria contamination was found in two cheeses during what the creamery called "routine testing."

Creamery owners Anthony and Kelli Estrella said they didn't issue an official recall but suspended cheese sales and are testing all of their cheeses. The creamery chose not to recall products because "none of the cheeses were in distribution." The creamery did contact buyers of previous productions and advised them to dispose of the cheese as a precaution.

"We are working on a very active program that will raise the level of confidence in our products for us, our customers, and the FDA," the Estrellas said. "We have learned a great deal, and know now that there are things we could have done better."

Listeria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, the frail or those with weakened immune systems. Healthy people can also get sick with a high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, the FDA said. Listeria infections can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Missouri-based Morningland Dairy announced last week a recall of almost 70,000 pounds of raw milk cheese it sold since Jan. 1 because of Listeria contamination and potentially tainted with Staphylococcus. Morningland said in a statement that it is continuing to test its cheeses and found that five of 14 private samples tested "weakly positive" for Listeria. That dairy also has suspended sales during its investigation. Whole Foods announced it was participating in Morningland's recall of its cheeses.
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