Listeria Prompts Washington Company to Recall Three Varieties of Cheese

Queseria Bendita of Yakima, Washington is recalling three types of its cheese, Queso Fresco, Panela, and Requeson, because the products have the potential to be contaminated with <"">Listeria monocytogenes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced.

The Listeria pathogen is responsible for an estimated 2,500 illnesses in the United States annually, with about 200 in every 1,000 cases resulting in death, or some 500 fatalities each year. Listeria infection can take days, even weeks, to develop and can present in anything from a mild flu-like illness to meningitis and septicemia.

The Queso Fresco, Panela, and Requeson cheeses are sold at Queseria Bendita’s retail store and were distributed in Washington and Oregon, where they are sold in Hispanic markets.

The Queso Fresco is packaged in one- and three-pound vacuum-packed wheels; the Panela is vacuum packed in one- and three-pound sizes; and the Requeson is packed in eight-ounce and one-pound clear plastic tubs. Each cheese has a green label identifying the type of cheese, the Queseria Bendita brand name, and a date code up to and including “Apr 30 2010.”

The public health investigation of the illnesses led to sampling and testing of the cheeses, which revealed the contamination of the product with Listeria monocytogenes. To date, there is one confirmed illness in Washington related to the recalled products. Other illnesses in Washington and Oregon may also be related.

The company has ceased production and distribution of the product while the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the FDA, and the firm investigate the source of the problem.

Consumers who have purchased the product are urged to return the recalled cheese to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-509-574-8587 Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Listeriosis, the infection caused by the Listeria pathogen, is dangerous and can often be deadly, causing serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals may suffer short-term symptoms, such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

In pregnant women, Listeriosis can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth of a baby suffering from the infection. Pregnant women are about 20 times likelier than others to be infected, with about one-third of all Listeriosis cases occurring during pregnancy. Listeriosis can kill fetuses, prompt premature births, and can lead to hearing loss or brain damage in newborns and neurological effects and cardio respiratory failure in adults, reported the LATimes.

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