The slow drip of information to the public on where this Listeria-tainted cheese was sold continues to come out – too slow.

Rick Barrett of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did a great story on the ongoing Crave Brother’s Listeria Cheese Outbreak where so far one person has died, a pregnant woman has miscarried and three others have been hospitalized after eating contaminated soft cheese.

The death was in Minnesota, while the illnesses — from Listeria monocytogenes — were reported in Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.   Three pasteurized soft cheeses are now the subject of a nationwide recall: Les Frères, Petit Frère and Petit Frère with Truffles.  Laboratory tests conducted by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on samples of the cheeses from two retail stores indicated the presence of the outbreak strain Listeria monocytogenes.  Those tests match the people who became ill.  The recalled products are:

  • Les Frères (LF225 2/2.5#) with a make date of 7-1-13 or prior, packaged in white plastic with a green and gold label.
  • Petit Frère (PF88 8/8 oz) with a make date of 7-1-13 or prior, packaged in small round wooden boxes.
  • Petit Frère with Truffles (PF88T 8/8 oz) with a make date of 7-1-13 or prior, packaged in small round wooden boxes. These products were distributed nationwide through retail and food service outlets as well as by mail orders.

Here is the confusing part for consumers.  According to both Crave Brother’s and the FDA, the recalled cheeses were distributed nationwide through dozens of retail and food-service outlets as well as by mail order.  We know that Whole Foods participated in the voluntary recall and has placed signs in stores to alert consumers. Whole Foods packages Crave Brother’s Les Frères cheese with Whole Foods labels.  Kroger grocery stores also carried the recalled cheese and issued a recall.  Mr. Barrett also reported that Roundy’s Supermarkets had it at 30 of its 161 locations. Roundy’s owns Copps, Metro Market, Mariano’s, Rainbow and Pick ‘n Save stores.  But, where else were the products sold and resold?  There have been scattered reports of other retailers – grocery stores and restaurants receiving the cheeses.  As I said to Mr. Barrett:

The trouble with product recalls is they don’t always identify the stores where something was sold, and product labels can vary, based on repackaging and branding.

“It would be better to have full transparency,” said Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in food safety cases. “The piecemeal process of teasing out the information is not the way it should be done.”

This should not be that hard for the Crave Brother’s and the FDA to list everywhere these cheeses were sold.