E. coli cheese outbreak in B.C., Alberta leaves 1 dead, 10 ill
Gort’s Cheese of Salmon Arm, B.C., suspected in outbreak
One person has died and 10 have become ill in B.C. and Alberta after eating E. coli tainted products from Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm of Salmon Arm, B.C.
A statement from Health Canada said there were four cases of illness in B.C. and seven in Alberta.
"One of the cases in British Columbia has died, and the cause of death is currently under investigation," said the Health Canada statement.
One person is still recovering in hospital and several cases remain under investigation, said B.C. Centre for Disease Control epidemiologist Dr. Eleni Galanis.
The illnesses began in July, with the majority of infected people displaying symptoms in late August to early September.
All sizes of the raw milk cheeses listed below are affected by the recall:
- Medium Gouda Cheese Quaso de Prato.
- Aged Quaso de Prato.
- X Aged Quaso de Prato.
- Cumin Quaso de Prato.
- Greek Blend: Onion, Paprika, Parsley, Pepper, Thyme, Oregano Quaso de Prato.
- Gouda Cheese with Jalapeno Peppers Quaso de Prato.
- Smoked Gouda Cheese Quaso de Prato.
- Gouda Cheese with Red Peppers, Ginger, Onions & Garlic Quaso de Prato.
- Peppercorn, Ginger, Paprika, Onion & Garlic Quaso de Prato.
- Parsley, Celery, Onion, Garlic, Dill & Chives Quaso de Prato.
An alert from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency states the affected products have lot codes 122 to 138 and were sold at the manufacturer's outlet, at retail stores in Alberta and B.C, and through internet sales from May 27 to Sept. 14, 2013, inclusive.
Some product packages may not bear a lot code or indicate that the cheese was made with raw milk, and CFIA advises consumers who are unsure if they have purchased the affected product to contact their retailer.
Farm owner and operator Kathy Wikkerink said she was devastated by the news.
"We feel like we … we have hurt these people and it's totally unintentionally ... we were totally unaware of this bacteria being in any of our products," she said.
"We only have raw milk cheese sales ... people come here for raw milk cheese," adding the farm will only make pasteurized cheese for the time being.
"Our shelves are bare and we just are trying to hold it together and stay alive," she said.
It is illegal to sell unpasteurized milk, but cheese made from unpasteurized milk is legal for sale in Canada.
E. coli facts
Officials advise that if you have eaten this cheese and feel well, there is no need to do anything further.
But if you have eaten this cheese within the last 10 days and have severe diarrhea or feel very sick, see your health-care provider.
- E. coli is a germ, or bacterium, that infects the digestive tract of animals.
- There are many types of E. coli, and most of them are harmless. But some can cause severe illness, even death.
- E. coli O157:H7 can cause stomach cramps and mild to severe diarrhea that can be bloody.
- Symptoms start two to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria, and usually last between five to 10 days.
- For more information on E. coli and its health risks, visit the BCCDC website.