Bad Cheese is Dangerous to Your Health: The Estrella Family Creamery Case

Is bad cheese dangerous to your health? What are the risks if you still consume them? Well, the bad cheese can weaken your immune system. It can also cause fatal infections in infants, children, and the elderly. And it can cause can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Why are we talking about bad cheese? Mainly to point out this advisory from the Food and Drug Administration banning and seizing cheese products from the Estrella Family Creamery. The products are being sold in Washington State but they are also reportedly available via the internet.

The FDA decided to ban and seize the products after it found that they contain Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) which is really really bad for your health.

From the FDA/DOJ Press Release:

District Court Judge Approves Seizure after Repeated Tests Show Listeria Monocytogenes

The U.S. Marshal’s Service seized all cheese products at Estrella Family Creamery (Estrella) in Montesano, Washington, Thursday, October 21, 2010, after repeated tests by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Washington State Department of Agriculture (WADA) over the last several months showed the persistent presence of a pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes, in Estrella’s cheese products and facilities. The pathogen can cause the illness listeriosis which can be life threatening for the aged, infirm, very young or immune compromised individuals. The pathogen can be especially dangerous for pregnant women. U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle authorized the seizure.

According to the FDA affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, the WADA collected samples of cheese and cheese ingredients from production areas at the farm on February 1st, 9th, and March 1, 2010. Testing revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in the cheese, in the salt brine used in processing the cheese, and in production and storage areas throughout the farm. Estrella recalled a variety of cheeses in February and March 2010 following the test results.

In August, the FDA inspected the farm, collecting a new set of samples. The samples revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in the production space and aging rooms. Further, Estrella’s owners revealed that their own tests between March and May 2010, showed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in certain cheese products. On August 16, 2010, an FDA sample of “Caldwell Crik Chevrette,” that was ready to be shipped to customers, tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. FDA testing revealed the Listeria monocytogenes pathogen found in August was indistinguishable from the pathogen found in March, indicating Estrella had not remedied the insanitary conditions found by the WADA in February and March 2010.

On September 3, 2010, the FDA asked Estrella to recall all cheese products. The company refused. The FDA issued a warning to consumers regarding the potential presence of Listeria monocytogenes in Estrella cheese on September 4, 2010.

Under the warrant signed last week, Estrella’s cheese products were seized to prevent the sale and dissemination of adulterated and potentially contaminated food.

The seizure is a civil action undertaken by the FDA. Assistant United States Attorneys David East and Kerry Keefe are handling the matter for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.


Before the seizure order, the FDA released these fast facts about the contaminated products of Estrella Family cheeses and their bad health effects.

  • This advisory affects all lots of Estrella Family Creamery cheeses, including cheeses identified as soft, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard.
  • The cheeses have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) and may cause serious illness.
  • L. mono is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.
  • Listeria infections can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
  • Healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
  • Consumers who have the cheeses should throw them away.
  • Consumers with symptoms of Listeria should consult their health care professionals.

Here’s the list of products that you should avoid:

  • Black Creek Buttery
  • Dominoes
  • Guapier
  • Grisdale Goat
  • Subblime
  • Partly Sunny
  • Wynoochee River Blue
  • Caldwell Crik Chevrette
  • Old Apple Tree Tomme
  • Valentina
  • Vineyard Tomme
  • Brewleggio
  • Red Darla
  • Reposée
  • Bea Truffled
  • Jalapeño Buttery
  • Weebles

Want to read more about food safety? You might want to read our posts on the safety of the Salmon Frankenfish, the safety of Magic Power Coffee, and whether raw milk is safe or not.

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