WASHINGTON (AP) _ Several cheese sellers around the country are recalling brands that may be contaminated with dangerous germs called listeria, after a Wisconsin cheese supplier notified them last week of the problem.
Swiss American Inc. of St. Louis on Thursday became the fourth company to recall possibly contaminated cheese brands _ cut pieces of Bench Cured Hoop Cheddar and cut pieces of big-block Bench Cured Hoop Cheddar.
The cheese may be contaminated with listeria, bacteria that can cause life-threatening infections in young children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems. Also, it can cause miscarriages or stillbirths even if the pregnant woman herself feels no symptoms.
Healthy people typically suffer short-term food-poisoning symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. No illnesses have been reported.
The recalled Bench Cured Hoop Cheddar was sold in grocery stores in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The red-waxed wedges of yellow cheddar cheese bear the sell-by dates of Aug. 12, 2000, through Feb. 8, 2001.
Customers should not eat the recalled cheese but return it to the place of purchase for a refund. Call Swiss American at 1-800-325-8150 for more information.
The problem stems from Wisconsin cheese supplier Hill & Valley Cheese Inc., which is recalling all cheddar, semisoft marble, colby and monterey jack cheese produced at its factory from June 8 through Oct. 25.
How many more companies bought and resold the cheese is uncertain. A Hill & Valley official said Thursday the company could not identify all the resellers, and declined to say how many pounds of cheese were recalled.
For a partial list of recalled brands, consumers can check the FDA's Internet site at http://www.fda.gov.