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3/11/2017 8:02 am  #1

Two People Die after Eating Raw Milk Cheese Made in New York State

Two People Die after Eating Raw Milk Cheese Made in New York State

Two people have died following an outbreak of listeria linked to a popular artisanal raw milk cheese made in upstate New York, the authorities said this week.

The deaths occurred in Vermont and Connecticut, local officials said. Four other people in New York and Florida reported feeling sick after eating Ouleout, the artisanal cheese, which is produced by Vulto Creamery in Walton, N.Y.

Illnesses started on dates between Sept. 1 of last year to Jan. 22, the Food and Drug Administration said. All six people were hospitalized and two people died.

Ouleout has been celebrated across the United States as much for its unusual back story as for its flavor: It was created by Jos Vulto, a Dutch artist linked to the Museum of Modern Art, who started making cheese in his apartment and aging it under a sidewalk in Brooklyn.

Vulto Creamery, which produces Ouleout, said it was recalling the product, and, as a precautionary measure, three other soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses: Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc. “We are very busy working on this recall with FDA and our customers,” the creamery said in an email without offering details on the cause of the outbreak.

Listeria monocytogenes is a health risk often connected to unpasteurized dairy products. It can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, pregnant women and the elderly, the Public Health Department in Connecticut said.

“Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and fetal infection among pregnant women,” a statement said.

Vulto Creamery began contacting clients on March 3, asking them to return purchases of Ouleout after being informed of a listeria strain in a sample, the health department said. It issued a recall on March 7 and extended it to the three other brands.

The deaths highlighted concerns over safety regulations around artisanal cheese production in the United States, particularly around the raw milk cheese segment, which emerged only about a decade ago, experts say. The outbreak has also revived a continuing debate between the virtues of raw milk cheese, which aficionados say tastes better, and safety. Some customers swear only by pasteurized-milk cheese.

Europeans have eaten raw milk cheese for hundreds of years. In France, for example, 15 percent of its cheese is made of unpasteurized milk, according to French agricultural statistics. The thinking is that when milk is cooked, or pasteurized, many of the flavor-rich enzymes are destroyed.

Ouleout, a soft washed-rind cheese that is aged for 60 days, “requires real craftsmanship” because it needs to retain a good amount of moisture even as it matures, said Carlos Yescas, program director at Oldways Cheese Coalition, a nonprofit organization that promotes artisanal cheese making. “Otherwise, the cheese will dry out really quickly.”

Washed-rind cheese is made by washing and curing the cheese in beer and other solutions, helping create its pungent flavor.

More than half of artisanal cheese produced in the United States is made of unpasteurized milk, Mr. Yescas said, adding that there are a number of ways in which the cheese could be contaminated.

Listeria, he said, could originate from the wood boards used to age the cheese, the water supply or improper sanitation, like walking in dirty boots. “It’s hard to pinpoint,” Mr. Yescas said.

In the United States, regulations on raw milk cheese are less stringent than in Europe, where more steps are required to ensure that there is no contamination, he said. Here, there is only a single national standard for raw milk cheese production, Mr. Yescas said, which requires that the cheese be aged for at least 60 days to block E. coli from developing.

“We need to take a look again at the 60-day rule and have a consensus with the scientific community, regulators and cheese producers,” Mr. Yescas said.

Ouleout was an instant hit when it came out a few years ago. Mr. Vulto quickly earned a reputation among cheese lovers as an urban cheesemaker “extraordinaire.”

Mr. Vulto came to the United States from the Netherlands in 1990, according to several media outlets specializing in cheese. He spent two years as an artist-in-residence at P.S. 1 in Queens, a contemporary art institution affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He specialized in crafting abstract installations made of metal.

His specialty involved “wrapping empty buildings in cloth and building contained fires of sawdust and hay inside,” according to Culture Cheese Mag. When the building started to emit smoke, the cloth absorbed an imprint of the building. Mr. Vulto called the technique “rooking,” a play on the Dutch word for smoke.

In 2008, Mr. Vulto switched to cheese making, reportedly inspired by the stink caused by a carton of soured milk in his refrigerator. He began creating rudimentary cheese in his apartment, and gradually mastered the art by making and remaking new batches and studying techniques.

To store and age the cheese, Mr. Vulto used a “crawl space in the floor of his Williamsburg studio, which opened up under the sidewalk,” wrote Geoffrey Gray, a food writer. It was “too small for a person but the conditions were just right for aging cheese.”

Mr. Vulto eventually moved to Walton, N.Y., in the Catskills, where he opened his cheese production facility.

Last edited by Goose (3/11/2017 8:03 am)

We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. 

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