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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

With 15 raw milk cheese outbreaks or recalls in 2010, is it time to reconsider the “60 Day Rule?”

It has been a busy year for outbreaks related to milk or cheese – mostly raw – See, “Outbreaks, illnesses and recalls linked to raw (unpasteurized) and pasteurized dairy products, United States, 2010 (through December 18, 2010).”  The last several raw milk cheese outbreaks (see below), prompted me to take a hard look at the rationale behind the so called “60 Day Rule.”  Here is the link to the literature review – “The Raw Milk Beat Goes On: A Look at the Literature and the 60-­‐Day Raw Milk Cheese Aging Rule.”

Outbreaks, illnesses and recalls linked to cheeses made from raw (unpasteurized) and pasteurized milk, United States, 2010 (through November 2010)

 

Year

 

Month

 

Location

 

Pathogen

 

Number ill

 

Vehicle*

 

Comment

 

Reference

(click on link)

2010

Feb

WA

Listeria monocytogenes

5

Queso fresco cheese

Pasteurized milk used to make the cheese

 

FDA

2010

Feb

WA

Listeria monocytogenes

0

Various raw milk cheeses

60-day aged raw milk cheeses from Montesano plant

 

FDA

2010

Mar

WA

Listeria monocytogenes

0

Tomme raw milk cheese

Expanded recall of 60-day aged raw milk cheeses from Montesano plant

 

FDA

2010

Apr

WA

Listeria monocytogenes

0

Queso fresco cheese

Pasteurized milk used to make the cheese; recall with no illnesses reported

 

FDA

2010

May

NV

Campylobacter

1

Illegal Mexican-style cheese

Type of milk used to make the cheese unknown

 

Washoe

2010

May

MN

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli

0

Raw milk cheese

Non-O157 found in dairy’s embargoed cheese during raw milk outbreak investigation

 

MDA/MDH

2010

Jun

DE

Brucella and Listeria monocytogenes

2

Raw dairy products including cheese

Two separate incidents

 

DE DHHS

 

2010

Jul

PA

Staphylococcus aureus

0

Raw milk hard cheddar cheese

60-day aged cheese; recall with no illnesses reported

 

 

PDA

2010

Jul

NY

Listeria monocytogenes

0

Queso fresco cheese

Pasteurized milk used to make the cheese; recall with no illnesses reported

 

 

NY AGMKT

2010

Aug

RI

Listeria monocytogenes

0

Queso fresco cheese

Pasteurized milk used to make the cheese; recall with no illnesses reported

 

RI DOH

 

 

2010

Aug

Multiple

Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus aureus

0

Raw milk Cheese

60-day aged raw milk cheese from plant in Missouri; recall with no illnesses

 

MO AG

2010

Sep

WA

Listeria monocytogenes

0

Raw milk cheeses

Expanded recall of 60-day aged raw milk cheeses from Montesano plant

 

FDA

2010

Oct

WA

Listeria monocytogenes

0

Raw milk cheeses

Expanded recall of 60-day aged raw milk cheeses from Montesano plant

US AG

2010

Nov

AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV

 

E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes

 

38

Raw gouda cheese; other cheeses

60-day aged gouda; E. coli outbreak linked to Costco “Cheese Road Show;” recall expanded to all company cheeses on 11/17/10;  no Listeria illnesses reported

 

CDC

2010

Nov

CO

E. coli O157:H7

0

Gorgonzola cheese

Cheese imported from Italy, made from pasteurized milk; no illnesses reported

 

FDA

2010

Nov

WA

Listeria monocytogenes

0

Fresh (Queso and ricotta) Mexican-style cheeses

Made from pasteurized milk; no illnesses reported (previous recall from same plant in April 2010)

 

FDA

2010

Dec

Multi

E. coli O157:H7

8

Raw milk cheese

60-day aged soft cheeses made with raw milk

 

FDA

  • Bill Anderson

    It is well past time to re-consider the 60 day rule.
    It speaks volumes about America’s wrong-headed big-business/big-government approach to food issues that it takes recalls and outbreaks for us to consider this issue.
    I would by no means suggest extending the aging requirement, as that will do almost nothing to improve food safety, and will further marginalize artisan cheesemakers by narrowing the types of cheese that can be made with raw milk. America is highly restrictive in comparison to Europe, where soft-ripened raw milk cheeses are widely available, and in some cases even enjoy legal status as protected designation of origin.
    What is needed is a better understanding of what it takes to make safe raw milk cheese. This is going to be a very difficult issue for the FDA to tackle, because of the ideological stranglehold which corporate agri-business has over the agency. The “milk is milk” dogma needs to be rejected out of hand. Purge all the Monsanto and Dean Foods executives from the agency.
    Not all milk is the same, and we must acknowledge how dairy farmers have been utterly exploited and oppressed by the dairy processing industry for the better part of the last 50 years (since the institution of compulsary pasteurization in most of the U.S.)
    Also, “zero-tolerance” for Listeria Monocytogenes should be abolished for hard aged cheeses such as cheddar. “Zero tolerance” for listeria only makes sense in softer varieties of cheese.
    Of course, tackling these issues head on requires a total uprising of angry moms and farmers against the tyranny of corporate agri-business and their allies in the regulatory agencies. Anything less will only result in more outbreaks and drive the market further underground.

  • It’s worth noting that for the majority of these “outbreaks,” no illnesses were reported. I can’t say I’m too worried…

  • Jim

    Bill,
    I counted 17 outbreaks listed above and 7 of them are from pasteurized milk or the source was unknown.
    How does that add up to 15 outbreaks from raw milk. I count 10 unless I missed something.

  • Thanks. There are 17 events listed in the “cheese” table and 15 resulted in recalls The NV and DE events involved sporadic cases and no recall, per se, thus the number 15 for the total. Nine of the events were due to 60-day aged raw milk cheeses, and per the table these include 2 outbreaks with at least 46 illnesses reported. The other recalls were from 5 queso fresco/Mexican style cheese companies (presumably pasteurized milk used since fresh cheeses are not subject to the 60 day aging rule), some involving the same companies from WA and NY. The other recall involved imported Gorgonzola cheese from Italy (pasteurized).
    Queso fresco/Mexican Style cheese recalls or outbreaks:
    Queseria Bendita (WA -Feb) – 5 illnesses
    Del Bueno (WA -April)
    Azteca Linda Corp (RI – Aug; company based in NY)
    Azteca Linda Corp. (NY Sep) – expanded recall: link is broken in table – here it is: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm224712.htm
    Del Bueno (WA – Nov)