FDA, CDC Investigating Listeria Outbreak from Vulto Creamery

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is collaborating with public health and regulatory officials in several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of Listeriamonocytogenes infections (listeriosis). The FDA and CDC have identified Ouleout, a soft raw milk cheese, from Vulto Creamery of Walton, New York, as the likely source of an outbreak of listeriosis in six people from four states. Two of the six people have died.

The agencies have been investigating this outbreak since January 31, 2017. After gathering evidence about various cheeses eaten by the people who became ill.

Products made by Vulto Creamery are not distributed in the state of Montana, however, the expanded recall includes Vulto cheeses that are distributed nationwide. It is always important for the public to aware of recalls while traveling.

Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness. An estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die. The infection is most likely to sicken pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems.

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 after eating any of the recalled products listed below, should seek medical care. Symptoms can appear from a few days up to a few weeks after consumption of the contaminated food.

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.

What Specific Products were Recalled?

Vulto Creamery has recalled all lots of Ouleout, Andes, Blue Blais, Hamden, Heinennellie, Miranda, Walton Umber and Willowemoc cheeses. The cheeses were distributed nationwide, with most being sold at retail locations in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, California, Chicago, Portland, Ore., and Washington, DC.

What Do Consumers Need To Do?

The FDA urges consumers not to eat any of the recalled products and to check their homes for the recalled soft cheese products. Vulto Creamery directs any consumers who have purchased any of the recalled products to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

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 Prevention or click here for a Listeriosis Fact Sheet

Investigation of the Outbreak (from CDC)

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that soft raw milk cheese made by Vulto Creamery of Walton, New York, is the likely source of this outbreak.

State and local health departments interviewed ill people or their family members about the foods they may have eaten or other exposures in the month before their illness started. Six (100%) of six people reported eating a soft cheese. The ill resident of Florida reported traveling to New York State and eating soft cheese there before becoming ill. Available information indicates that cheese made by Vulto Creamery was for sale at stores where at least five of the ill people purchased cheese before becoming ill. The outbreak can be illustrated with a chart showing the number of people who were diagnosed each week. This chart is called an epidemic curve or epi curve.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health collected leftover cheeses from the deceased person’s home in Connecticut. The outbreak strain of Listeria was identified in a leftover cheese that the family identified as Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery.

The New York Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services collected three intact wheels of Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery during a joint inspection with FDA. The outbreak strain of Listeria was identified in samples taken from the three wheels of cheese. On March 7, 2017, Vulto Creamery recalled all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses. The soft raw milk cheeses were distributed nationwide, with most being sold at retail locations in the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, California, Chicago, Portland, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.

CDC and state and local public health partners are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify additional ill people and to interview them. This investigation is ongoing, and updates will be provided when more information is available.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/soft-cheese-03-17/index.html

https://www.fda.gov/Food/RecallsOutbreaksEmergencies/Outbreaks/ucm545787.htm#update