A person has died in a listeria outbreak and consumers have been warned to avoid Baronet semi-soft cheeses that have been recalled because they are contaminated with the bacteria.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issued the warning on Friday (24 March) after “exceptionally high levels” of listeria were found in some of the cheeses. On Monday (20 March), the FSA – which makes sure food is safe – issued an alert saying The Old Cheese Room, a manufacturer in Wiltshire, was extending its recall of Baronet, Baby Baronet and Mini Baronet Soft Cheeses because listeria monocytogenes has been found in some batches.
These include pack sizes of 1kg, 270g and 200g, and best before dates of March 21 and 22, and April 4, 10, 11, 12, 16 and 18. UKHSA, a Government agency responsible for public health, has identified three listeria cases potentially linked to an outbreak and said one person has died.
Baronet is a pasteurised semi-soft cheese with a pinkish orange rind and a pungent smell. “Baronet cheese is sold in both small individual rounds and as 1kg wheels,” UKHSA guidance states.
“The cheeses are sometimes served sliced from a deli counter, so it may not always be clear whether you have purchased an affected product. If in doubt, consumers are advised to contact the retailer they bought their cheese from to find out if the Baronet cheese they have purchased is from the batches affected and in the meantime to not eat the product.”
UKHSA said “there is no confirmation that Baronet is the cause of this outbreak”. Symptoms caused by listeriosis can be similar to flu and include high temperature, muscle ache or pain, chills, feeling or being sick and diarrhoea. In rare cases, the infection can be more severe, causing serious complications, such as meningitis.
What has been said?
Tina Potter, head of incidents at FSA, said: “Due to the outbreak of listeria monocytgenes linked to Baronet semi-soft cheese, we are urging consumers who are vulnerable to listeria infection – including people who are pregnant and people with weakened immune systems – to ensure they follow the advice in the product recall notices, which details all of the products which may pose a risk.
“We are also asking people to make sure that elderly relatives who may have purchased the recalled items, and who are at particular risk, are aware of the recall and observe the advice.”
Richard Elson, head of incidents and response at UKHSA, added: “Listeriosis is a rare infection and most people will only experience mild symptoms such as abdominal pain or diarrhoea, which usually pass within a few days without the need for treatment. But people with weakened immune systems, who are pregnant or are infants or elderly are at greater risk of developing severe symptoms.
“If you are in a group who are at higher risk of severe symptoms, there is information on the NHS website about what foods to avoid and what to do if you think you have listeriosis.”
The Old Cheese Room said: “We are working closely with our local environmental health officer and the Food Standards Agency, and will continue to do so. As a responsible cheesemaker, we carry out regular cleaning, disinfecting and swab testing of our making and ripening rooms.
“Since the test that showed a trace of listeria monocytogenes in Baronet, we have changed our monthly testing regime to positive release, this means that we test every batch of cheese before it leaves us. None of our other cheeses have been affected by this.”