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COUNTYWIDE : Markets Remove Suspect Cheese

Ventura County food stores have pulled a brand of cheese from their shelves at the request of health officials because potentially lethal bacteria were discovered in some batches.

The voluntary recall involved Cacique Ranchero Cheese, manufactured by the Cacique Cheese Co. of the City of Industry in Los Angeles County.

Potentially tainted batches of the soft-style cheese, popular with Latino customers, had a “sell by” date of Dec. 5.

The bacteria can cause miscarriages or stillbirths and can be dangerous to children, the elderly and people with weaknesses in their immune systems, county health officials said.

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The bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes, is the same strain that triggered a food poisoning epidemic in Los Angeles County in 1985 that claimed 48 lives, mostly those of unborn infants.

The current recall was announced Thursday by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the state Department of Health Services.

No sicknesses or deaths have been reported from tainted cheese in the county, said Marilyn Billimek, a program coordinator in the communicable disease office of the Ventura County Public Health Service.

Consumers who have any questions about the cheese should call county health officials at (805) 654-2813.

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