Listeria Discovery Leads to Snowballing Cheese Recalls

One of the cheese brands being recalled.

Photo credit: The Tennessee Department of Agriculture

The discovery of Listeria monocytogenes in Amish Classics brand Colby cheese during routine and random testing by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture has led to a snowballing recall of various products from other companies, from grated cheese to pre-made salads to stuffed mushrooms.

Cheese produced by Deutsch Kase Haus, LLC, of Middlebury, Indiana, for several companies including MDS Foods Inc., Sara Lee, Sargento, and Country Fresh, is at the center of the recall and investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Many of the items were sold nationwide. (Amish Classics is a MDS Foods Inc. brand.) All the companies are voluntarily recalling their products “out of an abundance of caution.”

Listeria is an insidious bacterium that can cause muscle aches, fever, gastrointestinal issues, and even death in the most serious cases. The very young or old and people with compromised immune systems are the most at risk. About 1,600 people a year in the U.S. are sickened by the bug, resulting in about 260 deaths annually. There are currently no reports of anyone getting sick from any of the recalled products.

MDS Foods Inc. recalled six cheese products that were found to have Listeria, and another 20 due to potential contamination. The cheese was labeled under various brands such as Amish Classics, Meijer, Deli Made EZ, Old Tyme, and Deli Readi. The company said in a press statement that it is “committed to food safety” and is “working diligently with the FDA.”

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Sargento recalled seven different types of sliced and shredded cheese. The company stated in their own press statement that it is “vigilantly monitoring this issue to ensure the situation is resolved in a timely manner, and are working in full cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration to rigorously investigate this issue.”

Guggisberg Cheese, which owns Deutsch Kase Haus, recalled a dozen products, mostly cheese available at deli counters; while Sara Lee recalled 734 cases of two types of cheese that were distributed to food retailers in Alabama, California, Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Taylor Farms recalled 6,630 pounds of chicken and pork salad products made using cheese supplied by Sargento (which originated from Deutsch Kase Haus). Country Fresh recalled more than 2,500 cases of  various kinds of stuffed mushrooms and other snacks. You can find links to all the brands and which of their products have been recalled at the bottom of the article.

This series of recalls illustrates the way in which corporate food companies often rely on the same manufacturers for their products and ingredients. A similar problem arose last year when flour from General Mills tested positive for E. coli and was used in a ton of different brands’ items.

For more information, here are links to all the products being recalled: MDSGuggisberg, Sargento, Taylor Farms, Country Fresh, and Sara Lee.

Listeria Discovery Leads to Snowballing Cheese Recalls