Free samples of cheese given out in at least five states may be contaminated with E. coli.
At least 25 people who may have eaten samples of Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda cheese at Costco stores have been diagnosed with the sometimes fatal food pathogen, according to a warning issued late Thursday by the Food and Drug Administration .
No deaths have been reported but nine people have been hospitalized, including one with hemolytic uremic syndrome. That illness is most often found in children and can lead to organ failure and death in 5 percent to 10 percent of cases.
So far, there are 11 confirmed cases in Arizona, one in California, eight in Colorado, three in New Mexico and two in Nevada.
Most people infected with E. coli O157:H7 develop diarrhea and abdominal cramps, which usually passes within a few days.
“While most people recover within a week, some may develop a severe infection,’’ the FDA warning said. “But as symptoms of diarrhea improve, HUS-caused kidney failure can occur.
“People with HUS should be hospitalized immediately, as their kidneys may stop working and they may be at risk for other serious health problems,” FDA cautioned.
Bravo Farms is based in Traver, Calif. The FDA, the federal Centers for Disease Control and California officials have begun an investigation of the cheese factory.
Costco is advising consumers to return any remaining Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda cheese they may have at home for a full refund.
The chain is cooperating in the investigation and has voluntarily removed the cheese from its stores and, using card purchase records, has notified consumers by phone of the situation, FDA said.
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