One person has died and at least 25 have been sickened by an outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 linked to cheese produced by Gort’s Gouda Cheese farm in Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), with other health and food safety agencies said it is investigating cases of E.coli O157:H7 illness; 12 in British Columbia, 10 in Alberta and one each in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec.
The individuals became ill between mid-July and mid-September, including four hospitalizations.
One case has been confirmed with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), nine male and 16 females are affected and ages range from 3-82 years.
Certain contaminated cheese products manufactured by Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, have been identified as the source of the illnesses.
A statement on the firm’s website lists the raw milk cheese products subject to the recall.
“We apologize to our loyal customers for the recall of our raw milk cheeses and to all who may have suffered by eating our cheese.
“We are cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation. We cannot comment further until final results of the investigation are released to us.”
The British Columbia Center for Disease control has issued a prohibition against the firm selling or supplying any cheese products produced or processed at the Salmon Arm facility.
The firm explained that it prohibits the sale or supply of pasteurized cheese or import cheese and said they are “doing what we can” to have the British Columbia Center for Disease control narrow this prohibition.
They confirmed that they are still authorized to sell and supply pasteurized non-cheese products including fluid milk, fluid cream, yogurt, and quark.
“Our cheese products have been tested regularly in our on-site laboratory. As well, our cheese production facility and samples of our cheese have been inspected by a government agency six times a year,” the statement continued.
“The most recent government inspection on August 28 did not show any problems. We are working hard with our support team and the government authorities to identify and rectify any issues.”
The affected products, including lot codes 122 to 138, were sold at the manufacturer’s outlet, retail stores in Alberta and British Columbia, and internet sale from May 27 to September 14.
There is currently no indication of widespread risk to Canadians but E.coli O157:H7 can pose a serious public health risk and additional cases of illness may be identified and linked to this outbreak in the future, said PHAC.
E.coli O157 foodborne illnesses are not unexpected in Canada and no unusual increases in the number of these illnesses have been detected nationally.
The Public Health Agency of Canada's National Enteric Surveillance Program shows that E.coli cases in Canada have been declining in recent years.