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Saputo says it has contained Listeria contamination by expanding cheese recall

MONTREAL -- Saputo believes it has contained possible Listeria bacteria contamination at a Quebec processing plant by expanding a recall of all cheese made on a single line at the unnamed facility.

MONTREAL -- Saputo believes it has contained possible Listeria bacteria contamination at a Quebec processing plant by expanding a recall of all cheese made on a single line at the unnamed facility.

An expanded recall by Canada's largest cheese producer covers nine products or a total of 150,000 kilograms of cheese.

Saputo spokeswoman Sandy Vassiadis said the Montreal-based company doesn't foresee the need to close the entire plant because of problems identified on the one line.

"It is in a secluded place in the plant and so it's only that production line. The plant remains open and operations are ongoing," she said in an interview on Friday.

A week ago, Saputo recalled Faith Farms Ribbon Slices process cheese following a negative test. The product was sold in two kilogram packs with a best before date of May 5, 2011.

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The recall is now being expanded to cheese products with establishment number REG:1900 which have been sold in two kilogram packs.

Certain Faith Farms brand process cheese, St.-Albert ribbon slices process cheese, and Sunspun brand sliced cheese have been affected.

The products have been distributed nationally, but no illnesses have been reported.

Saputo (TSX:SAP) said the additional recalled products didn't test negative but since it hasn't found a cause it wanted to eliminate all cheese produced on the line before the original recall date.

"We have decided to put public interests first and therefore voluntarily recall every product processed on that production line until the shutdown date of Nov. 26," she added.

Saputo is investigating the matter with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Meanwhile, production has been redirected to another facility while the investigation continues.

The recalled cheese was sold through cash and carry and deli stores, and may also have been sold to food service institutions like restaurants, hospitals, day care centres and nursing homes.

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Saputo declined to put a total dollar value on the cheese recalled. Industry analysts said the original recalled cheese was worth less than $200,000.

They had expected the cost of the recall on Saputo's reputation would be minimal, provided the incidents are contained to the one line.

Severe cases of Listeria contamination can be fatal, particularly for people with poor health.

The biggest food recall in Canadian history involved a 2008 contamination of processed meats made at a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto. The listeriosis outbreak was blamed for 20 deaths across Canada.

Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled but can cause listeriosis.

The food bourne illness can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea. Pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk.

Related Topics: DAIRYFAMILYFOOD
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