After E. coli Scare, Sally Jackson Cheese to Call it Quits

Sally Jackson Cheese of Oroville, Washington has not only recalled all of its cheese because of potential <"">E. coli contamination, it is also closing up shop for good.

According to the Associated Press (AP), although Sally Jackson Cheese was revered as a “pioneer in its industry,” behind the scenes, it allowed staff to wear clothing smeared with feces as cheese production was underway and to milk animals and handle cheese curds with unwashed, bare hands, said a just-released federal inspection report.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously issued a warning that Sally Jackson cheese should be avoided due to potential E. coli contamination, saying that eight people were ill and one was hospitalized in a multi-state outbreak that was confirmed linked to the cheese, said the FDA.

Although Sally Jackson, owner of the beleaguered cheese maker, disagrees, she said she is shutting down and that the state of Washington mandated that she upgrade her “aging, wooden” store about one month ago, said the AP. “My argument then was that I have never made anybody sick in 30 years. That’s what breaks my heart now, that this is how it ended,” she said. “This has never happened,” said Jackson, quoted the AP.

But, as we’ve mentioned twice in recent days, the FDA said that all Sally Jackson cheeses on the market should be avoided because the products were processed under conditions that create a significant risk of contamination, and have been identified as one possible source of several cases of E. coli O157:H7 infections. All Sally Jackson cheese is made from unpasteurized raw milk and products are distributed nationally t chic stores and restaurants.

FDA just completed its inspection of the Sally Jackson facility and issued a Form 483, Inspectional Observations, an agency pre-determination regarding compliance. FDA collaborated with an investigation conducted by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), which identified conditions that create a significant risk of contamination, including problems related to the sanitation of the facility, its employees, equipment, and utensils, as well as problems with facility construction and maintenance. The problem was revealed as a result of follow-up by the FDA of a report of an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections. The notification came from the WSDA, the Washington Department of Health, and the Oregon Public Health Division.

The company is what the AP described as a “small farm business” operating for 30 years and which makes cheese from unpasteurized, raw milk. Unpasteurized raw milk in raw obtained from cows, sheep, or goats and is not pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. This raw, unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which are responsible for causing numerous foodborne illnesses. These harmful bacteria can seriously affect the health of anyone who or consumes these products and can be especially dangerous to pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.

Others in the artisan cheese industry were saddened by Sally Jackson’s move, calling her a pioneer and saying that this is simply a matter of the company better understanding food safety. David Gremmels, owner and cheese maker at Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon and the exiting president of the American Cheese Society, called Jackson one of the “great cheese makers of the American farmstead, artisan cheese movement,” quoted the AP.

The FDA inspection report employees did not thoroughly wash or sanitize hands when soiled or contaminated; there existed insufficient hand-washing facilities; debris, including feces, mud, straw, and wood chips littered the floor; and glazed, ceramic pots that, in some cases, were broken or cracked were used as cheese molds, said the AP.

Jackson argued about other points in the report, but inspectors said that her facility requires rebuilding to operate, said the AP. “It was sudden,” she said. “I didn’t see it coming,” quoted the AP, which said that with only about $12,000 in annual taxable income, Jackson said she has no choice but to close operations.

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