More illness cases linked to soft cheese products

Date: Friday, 18 January 2013

An ongoing investigation has linked a further seven cases of illness to soft cheeses this week, Victoria’s acting Chief Health Officer, Dr Michael Ackland said today.

Dr Ackland said there were now 18 cases of listeria infection nationally, and a link to batches of Jindi manufactured cheeses sold at delicatessens and supermarkets had been identified.

The Jindi Cheese company is now voluntarily recalling its cheeses from all batches it manufactured up to and including January 6.

Jindi also voluntarily recalled batches of brie and camembert on December 19, after the first cases were identified.

Eight of the listeria cases are from Victoria, six from NSW, two from Queensland and single cases from Tasmania and Western Australia. Two – a Victorian man, 84, and a Tasmanian man, 44, died of listeria infection, and a NSW woman miscarried. It is not possible to absolutely rule in or out a link for these deaths to Jindi.

Dr Ackland said the seven latest cases were notified to the Health Department this week.

He said 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 January 7.

“However, as a precaution the company demonstrated its commitment to the health and wellbeing of its customers by implementing a voluntary recall of cheeses manufactured up to and including January 6,” Dr Ackland said.

“On January 7 it implemented an even stricter regime of product testing and quality control, which Jindi is confident will ensure that all cheeses it sells are safe and free of bacterial contamination.”

The factory was closed from December 19 to 30, over the Christmas break.

Dr Ackland said it can often 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,” he said.

“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.

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

“Early symptoms of listeria include fever, headache, tiredness, aches and pains.”

Dr Ackland said the recall involved all soft and semi-soft cheeses produced at the Jindivick plant in batches manufactured up to and including January 6.

Consumers who bought identified brands in recent weeks should discard or return any to the place of purchase. Others who purchased a cut portion of camembert or brie from a supermarket or deli and are unsure of the brand should also discard it.

Fresh batches are expected to be on supermarket and deli shelves within days.

People wanting a list of recalled products can phone the Jindi Customer Helpline 1800 680 175.

Listeria contamination can also come from ready-to-eat seafood such as smoked fish or mussels, deli meats such as ham, strass or salami, foods made from unpasteurised milk, pre-prepared fruit and vegetable salads, raw vegetable garnishes and leftover meats which have been refrigerated for more than a day.

Information on listeria can be found on the Better Health Channel at: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Food_poisoning_listeria

The list of recalled products includes:

  • Wattle Valley 110g brie and camembert and Jindi 125g brie and camembert with best before dates up to 27/2/13
  • Jindi 120g blue brie and 120g triple cream blue with best before dates up to 28/2/13
  • Top Paddock and Blue Cow 1kg brie with best before dates up to 27/3/13
  • Jindi, Wattle Valley and Harris Farm 200g camembert with best before dates up to 20/3/13
  • Coles Finest triple cream blue 140g with best before dates up to 21/2/13

Media inquiries

Graeme Walker, Health Department Media Unit 9096 7296; 0409 237 543.