Local cheese company fends off listeria
By Jennifer Stahn
Image Credit: Google Maps
March 20, 2014 - 10:58 AM
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN — Castle Cheese wasn't taking any chances when a single conveyor belt tested positive last month for listeria. They immediately shut down production and put the room under quarantine.
“You don't mess around with this stuff,” Trina Boyko says. “You don't want people getting sick.”
Boyko's husband owns the company, which has been in business since 1997, and she helps run the office. The company tests monthly and the February swabbing turned up one positive result. They immediately shut down, quarantined the room and called the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
“We are a cheese company and being that we do in house swabbing once a month and send it to an outside lab for bacteria testing,” she says, noting they did a complete overhaul of the room last summer when a positive listeria test came back. “We totally revamped the room, took apart equipment, replaced equipment, but somehow one conveyor.... You can't see it... we think one roller was harbouring (the bacteria).”
While the company did not find any positive results in the product the inspection agency has found 'periodic positives' during testing. Boyko says it would take just the right shred at the right time to get a positive, which is why a lot of the products they've pulled back haven't tested positive.
The recalls first began on the commercial side but when they realized cheese that went into the retail market may have been contaminated they immediately put out a recall.
“Retail is a priority,” Boyko says. “We expect to deliver a perfect product to our customers, this has really set us back.”
The product has been distributed across the country and the company is concerned someone might put the shredded cheese in their freezer and not use it for eight months, which is why they are so focused on getting word out about the recall.
“We're sorry for all our customers,” she says, adding they have been very cautious in putting out the recall. “The product is recalled so it's not likely to go any further. Once it's returned it's all destroyed.”
The company has been able to effectively quarantine the area and because it has a fairly large factory a new room was opened up to continue production. Boyko says this helps prevent too much loss in production, though there is always the concern consumer confidence will be shaken and sales could suffer.
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