Author Topic: In the News: cheese farm owner distraught over death linked to raw milk product  (Read 842 times)

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B.C. cheese farm owner distraught over death linked to raw milk product
Gort's Gouda Cheese Farm

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control and Interior Health are telling the public to avoid eating cheese products from Gort's Gouda Cheese Farm, a Salmon

Angela Mulholland,
Published Friday, September 20, 2013 6:26AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 20, 2013 12:03PM EDT

The owners of a small cheese farm are apologizing after an E. coli contamination outbreak that has been linked to at least one death and the illnesses of a dozen more.

Gort's Gouda Cheese farm in Salmon Arm, B.C., which produces cheeses from both unpasteurized and pasteurized milk, say they are sorry for the illnesses linked to their products.

"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," the company says on its website. "We are cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation."
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 At least one death and 12 illnesses have been linked to the recalled cheese. Dr. Rob Parker, an official with the Interior Health Authority, tells The Canadian Press that the person who died after eating the affected cheeses was an elderly woman from British Columbia's Interior. He says the primary cause of death was the E coli infection.

E. coli bacteria can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, kidney failure and even death. Symptoms of infection typically two to 10 days after exposure, and usually last between five to 10 days.

Pasteurization can kill illness-causing bacteria, including E. coli, by quickly heating and cooling the milk.

While it is illegal to sell unpasteurized milk, some cheeses made from unpasteurized (raw) milk are legal to sell because the aging processes help to destroy harmful bacteria. Health Canada recommends that children, pregnant women, older adults and people with a weakened immune system avoid eating unpasteurized cheeses.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has recalled 15 raw milk cheese products, sold between May 27 and Sept. 14 at the farm, at retailers in B.C. and Alberta, and also through the farm's website.

Farm co-owner Kathy Wikkerink tearfully told CP that the source of the E. coli is still unclear.

"We are so sorry and we are trying to get to the source of the E. coli, but we don't know the source and we don't know what happened," Wikkerink said, sobbing.

In a statement published on the Gort's Gouda Cheese farm website, the owners say they regularly test their own cheese products in an on-site laboratory. As well, their production facility and samples of their cheeses were recently inspected by government officials.

"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," according to the statement.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is prohibiting the farm from selling any more raw cheese products. They are still authorized to sell pasteurized non-cheese products, including milk, cream, yogurt, and quark.

The business is located 450 kilometres northeast of Vancouver and began operations in 1983. The Wikkerinks bought the business from the Gort family in August, 2007.

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