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Australian cheese listeria outbreak linked to two deaths

By Joe Whitworth , 18-Jan-2013

Emporium Double Cream Camembert is one of the cheeses involved in the Jindi recall
Emporium Double Cream Camembert is one of the cheeses involved in the Jindi recall

A listeria outbreak from cheese in Australia has been linked to the death of two people and has led to 18 cases nationally.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) released details of the recall after seven more cases linked to the soft and semi-soft cheese products were reported this week.

The Jindi Cheese company recall features more than 100 products from a range of different brand names with best before dates up to 4 April 2013 but fresh batches are expected to be on supermarket and deli shelves within days.

Dr Michael Ackland, Victoria’s acting chief health officer, said a link to batches of Jindi manufactured cheeses sold at delicatessens and supermarkets had been identified.

Voluntary recall

The company is voluntarily recalling its cheeses from all batches it manufactured up to and including 6 January. This follows a recall of brie and camembert on 19 December, after the first cases were identified.

Eight of the cases are from Victoria, six from New South Wales, two from Queensland and there are single cases from Tasmania and Western Australia.

An 84-year-old Victorian man and a 44-year old Tasmanian man have died of listeria infection, and a New South Wales woman miscarried but officials stressed that it is not possible to absolutely rule in or out a link for the deaths to Jindi.

Stricter testing regime

Victorian Department officials visited the Jindi factory in Jindivick on Wednesday, and were satisfied that appropriate food processing, hygiene and monitoring practices were being followed for the manufacture of products from 7 January.

Dr Ackland said on the same day the firm implemented a stricter regime of product testing and quality control, which it believes will ensure all cheeses it sells are safe and free of bacterial contamination.

He added that it can be difficult to identify the sources of listeria infections, and symptoms of the illness can take up to 70 days to appear.

“Listeria is a bacteria that can affect a range of food products, particularly soft cheeses such as camembert and brie, despite strict hygiene and manufacturing controls.

“The infection will cause minor or no symptoms in the vast majority of healthy people who may contract it, but is particularly dangerous for some vulnerable groups,” he said.

“Listeria can cause miscarriages in pregnant women and death in elderly people and those with compromised immune systems.”

Jindi response

In a statement on their website, where it lists all the recalled products , Jindi said: “As a result of advice that Jindi received from the Department of Health as a consequence of new Listeriosis cases identified this week, Jindi is making a voluntary recall of all cheeses produced at the plant prior to 7 January 2013.

“Jindi Cheese is cooperating fully with the Department of Helath in implementing this recall.”

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