December 30, 2013 - 8:29 AM
SALMON ARM - A local cheese farm became the focus of a national E. coli outbreak in the summer of 2013.
Gort’s Gouda, located in Salmon Arm, was ordered to stop selling its cheese after health authorities noticed a pattern connecting it to a series of E. coli cases. Over a dozen products were recalled, but the tainted cheese had already hit the shelves.
A Vernon woman died as a result of eating the cheese and many more grew ill, not just in B.C. but in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec as well. An Alberta woman who sampled the cheese and contracted E. coli described the sickness as one of the most excruciating experiences of her life.
Owners Kathy and Gary Wikkerink, who bought the farm in 2007, were devastated their product had harmed people. Other Interior cheese-makers weighed in on the situation, questioning how the contamination happened.
The former manager of Gort’s Gouda, and daughter of the original owners, turned out to be one of the health investigators in the case. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency insisted there was no conflict of interest with Yolanda Gort inspecting her former establishment, noting she’d been doing the regular inspections there since 2010.
Gort’s Gouda was given the go-ahead to start selling cheeses not affected by the recall in October. It was welcome news for the Wikkerinks, who described feeling as though “a wight has been lifted.” They say over 500 cheeses had to be destroyed—their whole summer stock of raw cheese—but the investigators never found the source of contamination.
If their Facebook page is any indication, Gort’s Gouda appears to faring well, all things considered. They are back to selling cheese, and the number of likes on their page actually increased during the outbreak.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013