Today we filed suit on behalf of Annette Sutfin against Bravo Farms Cheese, LLC.  Annette is an Arizona woman who is 1 of 25 people sickened by E. coli O157:H7 in an outbreak linked to Bravo Farms gouda cheese sold at Costco locations in at least 5 states.  Ms. Sutfin was hospitalized for two days, and endured a severe gastrointestinal illness for upwards of a month, complete with grossly bloody diarrhea and agonizing abdominal cramps. 

The Bravo Farms E. coli outbreak is linked to a gouda cheese product that it sold to Costco, and that Costco served and sold to customers during its "Cheese Road Show" in October.  The specific product at issue–Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda Cheese–is a raw milk-based cheese. 

Raw milk-based cheeses must be aged for a minimum of 60 days. The requirement appears at Title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 58.439.  But this outbreak, along with a host of other recent raw milk-based cheese contamination events, makes you wonder whether 60 days is really enough.  Of course, tts entirely possible that it is, and that the contamination in these recent events, including the cheese E. coli outbreak, is from the production environment rather than within the cheesemaking ingredients themselves.  Whatever the case, it’s really clear that raw milk-based cheesemakers need to clean up their facilities, or their raw materials, or both. 

Here is some literature:

60-day aging requirement does not ensure safety of surface-mold-ripened soft cheeses manufactured from raw or pasteurized milk when Listeria monocytogenes is introduced as a postprocessing contaminant.

Microbiological quality of raw milk used for small-scale artisan cheese production in Vermont: effect of farm characteristics and practices.

Detection, isolation, and incidence of Listeria spp. in small-scale artisan cheese processing facilities: a methods comparison. (suggesting that listeria can find niches in cheesemaking environment where it can persist for up to two years).