Epidemiology officials with the Vermont Department of Health said a man from Windham County, in the southeast corner of the state, died during a listeria outbreak linked to soft cheese.
The man, whose name was not released due to privacy concerns, was over 65 years old, the health department said. That age group is considered high-risk for complications from listeria infection.
"Don't eat it," Bradley Tompkins of the Vermont Department of Health warned of Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery in Walton, New York.
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Federal food safety experts believe the bacteria, which is common in soil, water, and infected animals, somehow crept into Vulto's product.
This week, Vulto recalled the Ouleout label, as well as other soft, raw milk cheeses known as Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc.
The cheeses were distributed nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with most being sold in the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, California, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon.
"We want to make sure that restaurants and retailers both know to remove this cheese from their circulation," Tompkins said.
Listeria infection can cause muscle aches or flu-like symptoms, but be far more severe in older people or expectant mothers.
In addition to the Vermonter, another patient died in Connecticut, and several more were sickened in New York and Florida, the CDC said.
"My heart goes out to the family of the Vermonter who passed away," said Diane Bothfeld, deputy secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.
Bothfeld said products from Vermont's famous dairy industry are safe, adding that food producers in the state take precautions for ingredient handling and testing that greatly reduce the risk for contamination.
"There are no issues around listeria in any Vermont dairy products at this time," Bothfeld told necn. "It is something we’re constantly vigilant about."
"The FDA was actually just here last month inspecting a couple of the cheese makers," said Tom Bivins, the executive director of the Vermont Cheese Council. "There were zero positive results from any of their testing. There was nothing that would concern anyone in the state of Vermont."
According to the CDC, an estimated 1,600 people get sick from listeria each year, and 260 die.
The health department said if you get sick, and think you've eaten the cheese covered by this week's recall, you should go to your doctor.
A top safety precaution if you had the cheese in your home, according to Tompkins, is washing refrigerator shelves thoroughly with hot soapy water, because he said the bacteria is a hardy organism. Cutting boards and serving utensils that came in contact with the cheese also need to be thoroughly washed, Tompkins said.
For more information on the multi-state listeria outbreak, visit this website.