The FDA announced yesterday a recall by Queseria Bendita of certain cheese products due to fears that the products are contaminated by Listeria monocytogenes.  The potentially lethal bacteria has been found at the Queseria Bendita facility and in samples of unopened, recalled product.

Queseria Bendita is a small cheesemaking operation in Yakima, WA. They’ve been operating since 2000 and make primarily Queso Fresco, Requeson and sometimes Queso Panela, which they distribute to Hispanic specialty markets in Everett, Seattle and Tacoma, Washington and Hillsboro, Oregon.  The company has recalled all these types of cheeses bearing a date code up to and including April 30, 2010.

Listeria monocytogenes is a type of bacteria that is found in water and soil. Vegetables can become contaminated from the soil, and animals can also be carriers. Listeria has been found in uncooked meats, uncooked vegetables, unpasteurized milk, foods made from unpasteurized milk, and processed foods. Listeria is killed by pasteurization and cooking. There is a chance that contamination may occur in ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and deli meats because contamination may occur after cooking and before packaging.

Lynne Terry, from The Oregonian, reported as follows on the Queseria Bendita outbreak based on her discussions with Oregon State Epidemiologist Bill Keene:

One mother lives in Clackamas County and the other is in Washington County. Keene said both babies were delivered slightly prematurely because of fetal distress.

People with compromised immune systems are especially susceptible to the organism. It poses a particular risk to pregnant women, who can have miscarriages or seriously sick babies. The infants don’t always make it.

Although queso fresco has been associated with listeria because it’s often made with raw milk in poor conditions, this dairy uses pasteurized milk, Keene said.

Still, inspectors from Washington state found listeria at Queseria Bendita’s small facility in Yakima. Positive samples were also found in unopened packages of its queso fresco, Keene said.

The cheese was sold to a limited number of stores in Oregon, mainly in the Portland and Hermiston areas.