Whole Foods recalls contaminated cheese

Man seriously ill after consuming tainted product from East Liberty grocer

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A pricey French cheese sold at Whole Foods Market in East Liberty is being recalled more than a month after a 69-year-old Westmoreland County man grew seriously ill from listeriosis, a food-borne bacterial infection.

The man fell ill June 7 and was hospitalized after eating Jean Perrin Edel de Cleron cheese -- a soft, pasteurized cow's milk French cheese that sells for about $25 a pound. The man continues to recover in a rehabilitation center, said Guillermo Cole, Allegheny County Health Department spokesman.

On Thursday, the health department and Whole Foods Market announced the recall of the cheese, which was cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap bearing a Whole Foods Market scale label and code beginning with 293351. The cheese was sold between May 20 and July 3.

The recall didn't occur until more than a month after the man fell ill, Mr. Cole said, because it took time for him to be diagnosed and then to get positive test results on foods he had consumed with follow-up efforts to test samples from the market where he purchased the cheese.

"It required some medical detective work," Mr. Cole said.

The store is offering full refunds for the cheese. The health department said customers who purchased it from the market during that time period should either dispose of it in the garbage or return it to the store. Those who touch the cheese should wash their hands immediately afterward to avoid cross-contamination. The store also has posted signs in the store to notify customers of the recall.

The store and health department are working to ensure that no cross-contamination occurred and that equipment and utensils used in cutting, weighing or packaging the cheese isn't contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, the bacterium that causes listeriosis.

The illness primarily affects older adults, people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women and newborns. Such infections, caused by consumption of food contaminated with the bacterium, can be serious and possibly fatal.

Anyone who consumed the cheese should seek medical help if the individual has diarrhea and gastrointestinal illness followed by fever and muscular aches.

Customers who have the recalled product may contact the health department at 412-687-2243 (ACHD) and arrange to have the cheese tested.

The health department declined to identify the ill man. Mr. Cole said the man represents the only one affected by the contamination to date. The cheese that the man purchased tested positive for the bacterium, as did samples of the cheese taken at the store.

On the upside, Mr. Cole said, the price of the cheese meant that not a large quantity had been sold.

neigh_city - health

David Templeton: dtempleton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1578.


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