Forever Cheese, Inc., of New York is recalling its imported Italian Ricotta Salata Frescolina brand, lot #T9425 and/or production code 441202.
Officials say the cheese is tainted with listeria bacteria. The product may be linked to 14 illnesses, including at least one death, in 11 states and the District of Columbia.
The cheese was sold to distributors for retailers and restaurants in California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington between June 20 and August 9.
Jeff DiMeo of Forever Cheese said the recalled cheese is from one batch manufactured in Italy's Puglia region, but would not name the Italian company that manufactured it. The Food and Drug Administration confirmed listeria was present in an uncut sample of cheese from that batch.
Most people who consumed the cheese would not know where it came from because it was distributed in large wheels for retailers or restaurants to break down into smaller servings or packages. However, Whole Foods Market said Wednesday it was recalling ricotta salata sold in some of its stores using PLU 293427; all sell by dates through Oct. 2 are affected.
Ricotta salata is a salty, white cheese made from pasteurized sheep's milk. It is not the same as soft ricotta cheese sold in tubs and used to make lasagna.
Listeria is rare but deadlier than well-known pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli. Symptoms of infection may include fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. It is most dangerous to pregnant women, the elderly and others with compromised immune systems.
If you believe you have purchased this cheese, contact your distributor or retailer for a full refund. Anyone with questions can call Forever Cheese at (888) 930-8693 and mention "recall."