No fewer than 14 types of raw-milk cheese from Gort’s Gouda are cited in an E. coli advisory issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The recall advisory followed warnings issued Tuesday by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, Interior Health and Health Canada after four cases of the potentially deadly bacterial infection were linked to cheese from the Salmon Arm farm.
One of the infected patients died in August, but E. coli has not been determined as the cause of death. Four other cases are possibly connected
B.C. agencies initially took the precaution of issuing a blanket health warning, advising retailers and consumers to dispose of all Gort’s cheese. However, the CFIA’s subsequent advisory specifies only to raw-milk cheeses from the farm.
In the meantime, CFIA investigators are working to determine the source of the contamination, whether animal or human.
“This investigation could go on for several weeks as we develop theories, take samples and report back,” said Fred Jamieson, a food safety and recall specialist with the federal agency.
“The usual source in many cases could have originated through the animal,” he added.
While the recall applies only to raw-milk cheeses, the lack of pasteurization was not necessarily the cause of contamination, he said.
Trevor Hargreaves, a spokesman for the B.C. Dairy Association, said eating raw-milk cheese does not pose the same risk as drinking raw milk.
“There’s quite a difference. Health Canada recommends you don’t drink raw milk,” he said.
According to the association, the manufacturing and maturing of raw-milk cheeses normally inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria that may be present in the raw milk. Producers are held to “very strict and detailed rules and manufacturing procedures.”
The affected products were sold at Gort’s, at retail stores in B.C. and Alberta, and through Internet sale between May 27 and Sept. 14 inclusive. Packages may bear a lot code number between 122 and 138. The products were also sold at deli counters and may not bear the coding.
The full recall list includes Medium Gouda Cheese Quaso de Prato; Aged Quaso de Prato; X Aged Quaso de Prato; Cumin Quaso de Prato; Greek Blend Quaso de Prato; Gouda Cheese with Jalapeno Peppers Quaso de Prato; Smoked Gouda Cheese with Red Peppers, Ginger, Onions and Garlic Quaso de Prato; Peppercorn, Ginger, Paprika, Onion and Garlic Quaso de Prato; Parsley, Celery, Onion, Garlic, Dill and Chives Quado de Prato; Maasdammer; Beaufort; Parmesan; and Mazouda.
The recall has been given the CFIA’s highest risk category, meaning the products could cause severe illness or possibly death.
Jamieson said the recall could be expanded to more Gort’s products, including pasteurized cheeses, if their investigation warrants.
Voluntarily, Gort’s stopped selling all its cheese products on Saturday and is recalling the affected products. The CFIA is monitoring the recall.
CFIA inspectors arrived on the farm on Saturday, but the warning wasn’t issued until Tuesday, leading some to wonder why it took so long.
“Actually, the time line was incredibly fast and tight to do that,” Jamieson said. “We are evidence-based and we have to await the (epidemiological) assessment.”
Full details of the advisory are available at the CFIA website, inspection.gc.ca.