Update: Interior Health issues alert over Gort’s Gouda cheese after E. Coli-caused illness detected

Update: Canadian Food Inspection Agriculture issues lists of Gort's products that may be affected.

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Update as of 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 –

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says all sizes of the raw milk cheeses listed below are affected by this recall.

These affected products were sold at the manufacturer’s outlet, at retail stores in Alberta and British Columbia, and through internet sale from May 27 to Sept. 14, 2013, inclusive.

Lot codes 122 to 138 are affected by this recall.

Some product packages may not bear a lot code or indicate that the cheese was made with raw milk. These products were also sold clerk-served from deli counters with or without a label or coding. Consumers who are unsure if they have purchased the affected product are advised to contact their retailer.

The CFIA notes there may be recalls of additional products as the investigation continues.

Posted earlier Sept. 17:

An outbreak of E. coli in Interior Health has prompted the health authority and the BC Centre For Disease Control to issue a public alert to avoid consuming cheese from Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm.

One person has died and two other Interior Health residents are recovering from E. coli-caused illnesses.

Of eight people in the province to have contracted E. coli recently, four have been confirmed to have the same E. Coli 0157:H7 strain, and all said they had eaten cheese from Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm.

The illness was first reported in July, with the majority occurring at the end of August and beginning of September.

“Three are IH residents and one of the three is the person who died,” said Dr. Rob Parker, medical health officer for Interior Health. “The IH resident who died had consumed Gort’s cheese and had a lab-confirmed case of E. coli 0157:H7, and that particular bacteria was a ‘finger-print match’ (with the other cases).”

Parker said health officials are still trying to determine how much the E. coli contributed to the death.

When the onset occurred in July, it was a cause for concern but, as an isolated case, did not ring alarm bells. The province gets a number of E. coli cases throughout the year and while they try to identify the source, people are sometimes unable to pinpoint the cause of the illness.

It takes anywhere from two to four weeks from the time a person gets ill to get the bacteria fingerprinting done and matched.

In terms of the outbreak linked to Gort’s, health officials saw a cluster developing only last week, said Parker.

Neither Interior Health nor the BCCDC would confirm whether the person who died is young or old, male or female only that they contracted the illness late in August.

Officials at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) are working to determine which specific cheese is implicated in the outbreak.

A CFIA inspector was on-site on the weekend and “strongly recommended” Gort’s stop the sale of all cheeses, which they did Saturday, Parker said.

The CFIA was expected to issue a recall of Gort’s cheese or cheeses infected with E. coli late yesterday.

In the meantime, Interior Health and the BCCDC are advising people not to eat any cheese from Gort’s Gouda and to throw out any remaining cheese.

Kathy and Gary Wikkerink have owned Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm for six years and have six employees and 70 cows. The owners were not available for comment.

Their product is distributed in most local grocery stores, some specialty stores in the Okanagan and in Vancouver.

 

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