Consumers should not eat a raw milk cheese produced by the Mecox Bay Dairy farm in Bridgehampton due to possible listeria contamination, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets commissioner warned this week.
The cheese, a washed-rind tomme called Mecox Sunrise, was sold mostly to shops and a restaurant on the East End, Commissioner Richard Ball said in a news release Wednesday.
No illnesses have been reported to the department from this cheese, the release said, but consumers should toss all Mecox Sunrise purchased after March 1.
The cheese being recalled was packaged in plastic wraps and labeled “Mecox Bay Dairy Mecox Sunrise raw milk cheese” or “Mecox Dairy Sunrise,” Ball said. Some packages may show the plant number 36-8445, which indicates that the product was produced at the Bridgehampton farm, and the code L2148, which indicates when the cheese was made.
Arthur Ludlow, who owns the Mecox Bay Dairy farm with his wife, said they are working with state and federal authorities to find the source of the contamination and get rid of it.
The farm produces nine different handmade cheeses, according to its website. Although only Mecox Sunrise is being recalled, Ludlow said the farm stopped selling all cheeses and dairy products as of Tuesday.
“We are not selling any cheese or milk product right now until we can get this figured out,” Ludlow said in an interview on Thursday. “We are checking the environment in the cheese room and the aging room — all of that is being looked at.”
On April 30, an inspector from the Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services took a sample of the cheese in a routine check; a test showed the sample was contaminated with listeria monocytogenes bacteria, according to the release. On May 2, the Ludlows were notified of the preliminary positive test result, which was confirmed Tuesday.
Listeria-contaminated product may cause listeriosis, a disease that usually causes mild flu-like symptoms in healthy individuals, according to the Department of Agriculture and Markets. In people with compromised immune systems, meningitis and blood poisoning can occur. Pregnant women are at high risk, as listeriosis can also result in stillbirths.
Also in April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was investigating a multiyear listeria outbreak linked to sliced deli meat or cheese contaminated with the bacteria.
As of April 15, eight people in four states have been infected with the strain and hospitalized, according to the CDC: three in Pennsylvania, two in New York, two in Michigan and one in New Jersey. One person in Michigan died. The CDC estimates that about 1,600 people get listeriosis each year and about 260 die.
The Mecox Sunrise was sold at the following sites:
- Cheese and Spice Market in Wading River
- Citarella stores in East Hampton, Southampton, and Bridgehampton
- Schiavoni’s IGA in Sag Harbor
- American Hotel in Sag Harbor
- Fairview Farm at Mecox in Bridgehampton
The cheese was also sold at:
- The Publican Restaurant in Chicago between March 5 and May 2
- The Riverhead Farmers’ Market and the Mecox Bay Dairy farm store between March 1 and May 2