Bravo Farms Gouda Cheese (Sold by Costco) E. coli Outbreak
On November 4, 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert to consumers and health professionals about an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in five states: Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. The alert was based on epidemiological evidence linking at least 25 E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in those states to a cheese product called “Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda Cheese” that Bravo Farms manufactured and distributed to Costco Warehouses. Costco offered the cheese product for sampling and sale at the “cheese road show” held at certain Costco Warehouses from October 5 to November 1, 2010.
Further investigation by the CDC and various state and local health agencies revealed that 38 E. coli O157:H7 cases from Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada shared an indistinguishable DNA fingerprint pattern.
In a remarkable move, U.S. marshals and Food and Drug Administration agents raided Bravo Farms and seized the gouda, along with piles of edam and blocks of white cheddar on January 27, 2011. Investigators seized more than 80,000 pounds of cheese with the intent of disposing of it as garbage and reported numerous food safety violations at the Bravo Farms cheese manufacturing facility.
Additionally, 15 of 24 cheese samples collected tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, a pathogenic organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in children and the elderly. The samples came from four different types of Bravo Farms cheese, including cheddar, edam, gouda, and jack. And one sample, a cheddar cheese, tested positive for E. coli O157:H7.
As a result of the multiple positive samples for pathogenic bacteria representing approximately four (4) months of production, on November 22, 2010, the California Department of Food and Agriculture imposed a quarantine on all types, varieties and flavors of cheese manufactured, handled, or packaged by Bravo Farms, LLC and ordered a recall of all cheese distributed by Bravo Farms, LLC.