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Listeria Contaminations: Queso Fresco Cheese, Alaskan Sausage

Feb 9, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced that the New York State Agriculture Commissioner, Patrick Hooker, issued a warning to consumers not to eat certain Queso Fresco, Fresh Cheese, made by Peregrina Cheese Corporation.  Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that some Alaska Sausage Company, Inc. sausage products should also be avoided.  In both case, the food recalls involve possible contaminations with the Listeria monocytogenes pathogen, the germ that causes the dangerous, sometimes deadly, listeriosis infection.

This is not the first time that Peregrina’s Queso Fresco cheese has been the subject of a recall over possible contamination with the Listeria moncytogenes bacteria.  The current recall involves all Queso Fresco, Fresh Cheese products packed in 14-ounce foil packages that bear the code number “4461.”  Pergrina Cheese also reported that although it is in possession of most of the recalled Queso Fresca, Fresh Cheese, some of the recalled cheese was distributed to retail outlets.  The listeria contamination was discovered during a routine sampling conducted by an FDA inspector from the Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services.

In December 2007, another recall of Peregrina Cheese’s Queso Fresco, Fresh Cheese—also sold in 14-ounce, foil-wrapped packages—was recalled due to possible listeria contamination after routine testing revealed the Queso Fresco, Fresh Cheese was tainted with the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.  Peregrina is located in Brooklyn, New York.

The other recall was issued by The Alaska Sausage Company, Inc., of Anchorage, Alaska.  The Alaska Sausage Company is recalling approximately 872 pounds of its sausage products that may be contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.  The USDA’s FSIS has classified the Alaska Sausage Company recall as a Class 1 Recall, which means that this contamination is a health hazard situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product—in this case, the ingestion of the recalled cheese—will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.  Alaska Sausage is recalling two of its meat products.

The Alaskan Sausage Links with Reindeer Meat involved in the Class 1 recall are sold in three-pound packages that bear package code “02709.” a “sell by” date of “03/22/09,” and the establishment number “EST. 17866.”  The establishment number appears inside the USDA mark of inspection.  Also involved in the Alaska Sausage Company recalls are one- and three-pound packages of German Brand Cooked Bratwurst with the package code “02709,” a “sell-by” date of “03/02/09,” and the establishment number “EST. 17866.”  Both of these contaminations were discovered through the firm’s microbiological sampling program.

Listeriosis, the food poisoning generated by Listeria monocytogenes, is particularly dangerous to the elderly, pregnant women, newborns, those with chronic medical conditions, people with HIV, or those undergoing chemotherapy.  In serious cases, the disease spreads to the nervous system, causing headaches, stiff neck, and convulsions.  Listeriosis can also cause meningitis and blood poisoning in immune-compromised individuals.   In pregnant women, listeriosis can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth of a baby suffering from the infection.

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