Food Standards Agency
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The Co-operative withdraws some cheese

The Co-operative has withdrawn Co-op British Extra Mature Cheese with a ‘best before’ date of 24 February 2011 and Co-op Welsh Extra Mature Cheese with a best before date of 14 March 2011, because the products contain high histamine levels. The Agency has issued a Product Withdrawal Information Notice.

Eating more than small amounts of the products may cause symptoms similar to an allergic reaction. These symptoms would be more likely to occur in more sensitive individuals or children.

Product details

The withdrawn products are:

  • Co-op British Extra Mature Cheese, 300g
  • Best before: 24 February 2011
  • Co-op Welsh Extra Mature Cheese, 200g
  • Best before: 14 March 2011

The Co-operative withdrew the affected products from sale on 21 January 2011. Shelf notices will to be displayed tomorrow, Tuesday 1 February 2011, explaining to consumers why the products have been withdrawn.

No other Co-operative products are known to be affected.

The science behind the story

Cheese that is not handled properly during production or stored at a cold enough temperature may contain a chemical called histamine. Warmer temperatures allow bacteria to multiply and produce this chemical. Eating cheese with high histamine levels could cause a reaction that is like an allergic reaction. Histamine can affect anyone, not just those with allergies.

Symptoms are similar to those of an allergic reaction; they include skin rash, low blood pressure, vomiting and diarrhoea. Symptoms also include headaches, dizziness, palpitations, and abdominal cramps. Symptoms can occur as quickly as 10 minutes after eating the affected cheese and may be serious enough to require urgent medical attention, although they usually resolve within 24 hours.

About product withdrawals and recalls

If there is a problem with a food product that means it should not be sold, then it might be 'withdrawn' (taken off the shelves) or 'recalled' (when customers are asked to return the product). The Food Standards Agency issues Product Withdrawal Information Notices and Product Recall Information Notices to let consumers and local authorities know about problems associated with food. In some cases, a ‘Food Alert for Action’ is issued. This provides local authorities with details of specific action to be taken on behalf of consumers.

You can get FSA alerts about product recall and withdrawals either by email or SMS text. Visit the Get Alerts page at the link towards the bottom of this page to find out how.

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