By: Jory D. Lange, Jr.
Retailers across the country have pulled from their shelves Vulto Creamery’s unpasteurized raw milk cheeses. After the CDC linked them to a national Listeria outbreak, Vulto Creamery recalled all of its cheeses. But have Vulto Creamery’s retailers told their customers?
At UnsafeFoods, we often get calls from concerned consumers who learned of a food poisoning outbreak and recall only after eating the contaminated product. All too often, consumers continue to eat the tainted product, even after the recall, because no one told them that the product was linked to a food poisoning outbreak. Most Americans are not in the habit of checking on a daily basis for the latest food recalls on the FDA’s website, much less for the latest food poisoning outbreaks on the CDC’s website. Even after a company recalls its tainted food product, and the recall is published on the FDA’s website, many Americans continue to eat contaminated food products, simply because they do not know about the recall.
Vulto Creamery Listeria Outbreak Summary
Six people have been hospitalized with Listeria monocytogenes infections (Listeriosis) after eating Vulto Creamery’s unpasteurized raw milk cheeses. Two people have died. The Listeria victims identified thus are from Connecticut, New York, Vermont, and Florida. The Florida Listeria victim reported eating Vulto Creamery cheeses on a recent trip to New York, before becoming ill. The CDC reports that, “Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that soft raw milk cheese made by Vulto Creamery of Walton, New York, is the likely source of the outbreak.” The Vulto Creamery has recalled all of its cheeses.
Vulto Creamery’s unpasteurized raw milk cheeses were sold nationwide. Vulto distributed most of its cheeses to northeastern states, Mid-Atlantic states, California, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon. The FDA has posted the latest recalls from Vulto Creamery and Whole Foods, one of Vulto’s retailers. Vulto Creamery has recalled all lots of its Heinennellie, Miranda, Willowemoc, Ouleout, Andes, Blue Blais, Hamden, and Walton Umber unpasteurized raw milk cheeses. Photographs of the recalled cheeses are available here.
Only Retailers Know Who Bought the Vulto Creamery Cheeses
The Vulto Creamery sold its unpasteurized raw milk cheeses to high-end retailers. These retailers sold the cheeses on to the consumers. Only the grocery stores know which consumers actually bought the Vulto Creamery’s cheeses.
Retailers can identify which customers bought these recalled products by examining their stores’ debit and credit card receipts. In prior food poisoning outbreaks, retailers have often used their own sales records to identify and notify their customers that the food product they bought has been recalled.
In recent recalls, many retailers have notified customers that they bought a product that was later recalled. For instance, grocery chains involved in last year’s frozen foods recall e-mailed, sent notices to, and even called their customers to inform them of the recalls. By notifying their customers, these retailers saved many people from contracting food poisoning. Are retailers warning their customers that the FDA and CDC have linked Vulto Creamery’s unpasteurized raw milk cheeses to a nationwide Listeria outbreak? Are retailers warning their customers that the Vulto Creamery has recalled all of its cheeses?
At this point, we just don’t know. But if prior outbreaks provide any guide, many Americans will continue to consume Listeria-contaminated Vulto Creamery cheeses unless and until the retailers who know who bought these cheeses contact their customers to inform them of the recall.
What to Watch For
If you ate Vulto Creamery’s unpasteurized raw milk cheeses products before learning of the Listeria outbreak and recall, here is what you should know. The CDC reports that when Listeria causes gastroenteritis, symptoms usually develop within a few hours to two to three days. However, when the severe, invasive form of Listeriosis develops, symptoms can take from three days to three months to appear.
Listeria symptoms vary from person to person. Like other foodborne pathogens, Listeria can cause fever and diarrhea. The CDC advises that:
- “Pregnant women: Pregnant women typically experience only fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches. However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.”
- “People other than pregnant women: Symptoms can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches.”
Pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged sixty-five and older, and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk for Listeriosis.
Non-invasive gastrointestinal illness stemming from Listeria usually resolves in otherwise healthy people. However, the more serious, invasive illness resulting from Listeria can cause septicemia and meningitis.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Listeria Infection
There are some things that you can do to help reduce the risk of developing a Listeria infection.
If the recalled cheese is in your home, the CDC recommends that you:
- “Throw the cheese away in a closed plastic bag placed in a sealed trash can. This will prevent people and animals from eating it.”
- “Wash the refrigerator drawer and other areas where the cheese was stored with hot water and soap.”
- “Wash cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to cut, serve, or store recalled cheese. If possible, use a dishwasher; otherwise, use hot water and soap, followed by sanitizing with a solution of one tablespoon chlorine bleach added to one gallon of hot water.”
- “Wash your hands with warm water and soap after cleaning up.”
If you ate the recalled cheese, the CDC advises:
- “If you have eaten a recalled cheese and do not have any symptoms, most experts believe that tests or treatment are not needed, even for people at higher risk for listeriosis.”
- “People who develop symptoms of Listeriosis after eating possibly contaminated products should consider seeking medical care and telling a healthcare provider about eating that product. Although people can sometimes develop listeriosis up to 2 months after eating contaminated food, symptoms usually start within several days.”
Robins Cloud LLP is a nationwide law firm devoted to helping families who have been harmed by large corporations. Robins Cloud LLP helps victims of defective products and foodborne illnesses. The firm is providing free, no-obligation legal consultations to the families whose children may have been harmed.