Everyone loves the free food samples available at Costco warehouse stores. But, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, there is one sample people should avoid right now: Gouda cheese. The FDA, CDC and Costco released statements November 4 warning that the Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda cheese, (Costco item 40654) available for sales and samples at Costco stores has been linked with an outbreak of E. coli infections.
The Costco stores affected by the contaminated cheese include those in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. As of November 4, the FDA reports that as many as 25 people were infected with E. coli since mid-October. There have been 9 reported hospitalizations, but no deaths.
Customers who have purchased the Bravo Farms Gouda cheese should not not eat it, directs the FDA. Anyone who has the contaminated cheese should return the cheese to the store where it was purchased, or dispose of it in a closed plastic bag and place in a sealed trash can to prevent people or animals, including wild animals, from eating it. The cheese may be returned to Costco for a full refund. Costco is also contacting customers by phone if there are records showing they may have purchased the cheese.
Government agencies advise anyone with symptoms of E. coli infection to contact their doctor immediately. Symptoms of infection include diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Most people recover fairly quickly, but the infection can cause kidney failure, especially in young children and older adults. Healthcare providers are reminded by the FDA and CDC to report any suspected infection to state or local public health authorities right away.