Soft raw-milk cheese made by Vulto Creamery in Walton, New York, has been identified as the likely source of a listeria outbreak that has sickened six people since September, including two who died, according to a release today by the CDC.
On Tuesday, Vulto recalled its Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw-milk cheeses. The cheeses were distributed nationwide, with most being sold in the Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states, California, Chicago, Portland, and Washington, DC, according to the recall announcement. They were also sold in a few Whole Foods stores.
"All six people were hospitalized, and two people from Connecticut and Vermont died. One illness was reported in a newborn," according to the CDC.
Advocates of raw (aka unpasteurized) milk claim it is good for gut health and for the immune system, and have criticized federal laws that prohibit interstate sale of the food, with the exception of cheese that is properly labeled. They also argue that raw vegetables and fruit are a bigger source of food-borne illness and that unpasteurized milk should not be singled out. States have their own laws about selling raw milk.
The CDC, however, says "most of the nutritional benefits of drinking raw milk are available from pasteurized milk without the risk of disease that comes with drinking raw milk." The investigation is ongoing.
The founder of Vulto Creamery, Jos Vulto, is an artist who moved to New York from the Netherlands. According to the company's website, before Vulto started the business, he "had been making cheese in his apartment for about five years, aging it under the Brooklyn sidewalk. He had never set out to become a cheese maker but after half a year of experimenting and favorable reception of some of his creations, he started to explore the possibility of starting a creamery."
Vulto did not immediately respond to a request for comment.