Whole Foods is recalling a specific type of cheese after a routine inspection uncovered a form of bacteria that causes listeria infections on the product.
The Austin, Texas-based company announced in a press release on its website on Oct. 7 that it will pull all Papillon Organic Roquefort cheese products from its stores nationwide. The recalled products are cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap with a Whole Foods Market label, according to the press release.
The company's decision followed the discovery of the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria on an uncut wheel of the Roquefort cheese during a sample testing by inspectors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Whole Foods has determined that the discovery affects Papillion Roquefort products with all sell-by dates.
Listeria infections, which can be fatal, affect young children, seniors, pregnant women, and those with vulnerable immune systems in particular. Symptoms include high fever, headache, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. The infection could also potentially cause miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women.
Although no illnesses associated with listeria have been reported to date, the bacteria is notoriously difficult to track because of its long incubation period.
"Listeria is very, very hard to track," Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer, told ABC News, adding that the bacteria's incubation period could range from two to 60 days.
All of the affected cheese products have currently been removed and signs posted on store shelves explaining the situation to customers, according to Whole Foods.
The company is urging consumers who have purchased the product to ask for a refund. Customers are also encouraged to contact their local store or the Whole Foods consumer hotline with questions.
Approximately 260 deaths a year are caused by listeriosis in the United States, according to statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.