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Gort’s back in the cheese business
A Salmon Arm cheese company is being allowed to resume operations after health officials have determined it is meeting provincial standards.
Gort’s Gouda Cheese was ordered to stop selling its products after an outbreak of e.coli was linked to the operation in September.
Twenty-six cases of E. coli O157:H7 illness linked to the cheese had been reported — 12 in B.C., 10 in Alberta, two in Saskatchewan and one each in Manitoba and Quebec.
Of those, a Vernon woman, Corry Vander Linde, died and all others were reported to have recovered or are recovering.
According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the company has discarded its products and a thorough review and inspection of its operations has been carried out.
The operation can resume production and distribution of both its pasteurized and non-pasteurized Gouda cheese products.
“There will be conditions which the operator must meet as they resume,” said Lynn Wilcott, acting director, food protection services with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
“Gort’s must conduct tests of unpasteurized cheese before it leaves the plant. Those results will be reviewed regularly by provincial inspectors.”
Inspectors with BCCDC Food Protection Services, Interior Health and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will continue to monitor the operation and periodically conduct inspections to ensure that production safety standards are maintained.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Wikkerink family, owners of the farm, began immediately to offer for sale products that were previously under recall orders.
“Good news! We have been given the green light to start selling cheese again. We were able to keep our pasteurized cheese inventory,” the family posted online.
“Only two wheels of red pepper gouda out of a batch of over 30 wheels were found to be with E. coli on our farm.
“Where it came from and why only two wheels, we are baffled.
“Over 500 raw milk cheeses were destroyed — all our summer raw milk cheese. In all the swabbing done on our farm, the CFIA [Canadian Food Inspection Agency] were not able to find E. coli,” reads the statement from Gort’s.
The farm has been selling only yogurt, milk and meat since shortly after the first recall was announced.
The Wikkerink family estimates that more than two tons of cheese were discarded.
“Probably two tons that has not been in circulation, plus what was in circulation.”
The discarded raw-milk cheese was taken to Spa Hills Farm for composting.