Costco Issues E. Coli Warning on Gouda Cheese

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Since mid-October, 25 people have been infected with the E. coli strain linked to Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda cheese sold and given as samples for tastings at Costco stores.

The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that anyone with the product should throw it out in a closed plastic bag and place it in a sealed trash can to prevent people or animals from eating it.

So far, 11 people are reported to have E. coli related to the cheese in Arizona, one person in California, eight in Colorado, three in New Mexico and two in Nevada. Nine people were hospitalized and one person had a possible case of hemolytic

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The illnesses may be associated with cheese served and sold at "Cheese Road Shows" held by Costco in October, Arizona health officials said. "The public should know that if they sampled any of these cheeses and purchased them but didn't eat any in the meantime, it's not likely they will get sick,"said a spokesperson.

Costco and Bravo Farms should have known of – and in fact had advanced warning about – the risks associated with selling cheese made from raw milk,” said Colin Caywood, food safety attorney at Marler Clark. “Recently, dairies in Washington state and Missouri that produce cheese made from raw milk have had all of their raw milk-based cheese products embargoed and seized due to contamination with pathogenic bacteria. Apparently, producers of these raw cheeses are simply unable to ensure that their products are made with all the necessary precautions against contamination, and that is a circumstance that Costco should have recognized before the company’s customers were sickened in this outbreak."

Symptoms of E. coli begin to show within one to 10 days after exposure, but the average is three to four days, Weiss said. Certain strains of E. coli can cause severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps; sometimes the infection causes non-bloody diarrhea or no symptoms. Usually little or no fever is present, and the illness goes away in five to 10 days.

According to reports, the FDA and the state of California has initiated an investigation at Bravo Farms. In the meantime, Costco said it will give full refunds to people returning Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda cheese. The store has voluntarily removed the products from store shelves and is notifying customers who bought the cheese of the situation.

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