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Sep 18, 2008 07:04 AM

Hysteria over Listeria?

I'm curious to know if the recent Listeriosis "outbreak" here in quebec has affected the cheese buying habits of the folks on this board. For me, it's purchase-as-usual, but some acquaintances have expressed their reticence.

I heard on the radio this morning that Fromagerie Hamel in Atwater market is closed temporarily, although I cannot find an on-line source to confirm at this time. Other cheese retailers are claiming to have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock. Some details seem a little sketchy - are *all* cheeses being thrown out? Just certain brands? Most retailers are still open for business, so what's the criteria for destroying cheese? Will this "purge" may affect the availability of some harder to find cheeses?

Anyone here in the biz?

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  1. It's not the cheese mongers who destroyed all that cheese. It was the pencil neck MAPAQ inspectors who did it. They could have just quarantined the cheese until the test results came in, but the MAPAQ isn't really known for using common sense or trying to help the small guy. This overreaction to the situation is what created this hysteria. Once again the MAPAQ failed the small producers whilst giving a boost to its buddies in big agro-business.

    1. Oooh cheese shops! I should add a visit to a fine cheese shop when I'm in Montreal in two weeks! Can you recommend any good ones? (I'm not sweating the listeria stuff, but I'll look into it more just to be on the safe side). :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: Morganna

        Not the biggest but, in my opinion, the best from a quality and service standpoint is Yannick, Fromagerie d'exception on Bernard West in Outremont. They often have hard-to-find cheeses from places like Corsica and Portugal as well as first-rate versions of classics like Comté and Brie. A visit there is almost like a consultation, especially on weekdays.

        At the Jean Talon Market, Hamel stocks a huge range, Les Saveurs du Marché has what may be the city's best selection of Quebec cheeses while Qui Lait Cru offers a few cheeses you don't often see elsewhere. There are also a couple of artisanal cheese purveyors in the easternmost row of stalls (facing the new extension).

        At Atwater Market, Fromagerie du Marché Atwater takes the prize (though last weekend it, too, was not selling cut cheeses; Hamel was and I've had no health problems after buying and eating a wedge of their Comté and tasting a couple of other cheeses at the counter).

      2. Tainted food is common place. The number of outbreaks of food borne illness is not really higher than usual. The recent attention is due to the fact that this story became news worth with the sudden addition of a good villain (maple leaf foods).

        3 Replies
        1. re: The Chemist

          «The recent attention is due to the fact that this story became news worth with the sudden addition of a good villain (maple leaf foods).»

          It was also amplified by the more or less concurrent salmonella outbreak linked to several Quebec cheesemakers and the fact that one of the province's iconic cheeses, Riopelle, was (wrongly, it turns out) caught up in the listeriosis scare.

          1. re: carswell

            As of Thurs 18th, both Fromagerie Atwater & Hamel Atwater had their big cases totally empty. The big cases being where the cut cheeses used to live. With the notification that insurance won't cover the losses incurred and the possibility that the inspectors might make another pass, I wouldn't expect these guys to be back in great form for some time. Lets try to do we we can to help them out. For instance, I have a *lovely* Le Secret de Maurice goat cheese nicely hidden in the back of the fridge........ :-) that I picked up at Fromage Atw.

            1. re: minisma

              Last weekend, Fromagerie Atwater had their cheese case papered over - when I asked them why, I was told that someone had gone to the hospital and had been confirmed as having been exposed to listeriosis. When asked about what they had eaten, and where, the person apparently told them that they normally bought their cheeses at Fromagerie Atwater. So Atwater voluntarily papered over their cases, and sent their cheeses for testing. The same person then apparently also named Hamel at Atwater as a source for their cheeses, ergo Hamel's voluntary closing this week as well.
              This is all really unfortunate (especially as I had wanted to buy a cheese that only Atwater sold...).
              I agree that we have to support the industry, so today I headed to Maitre Corbeau on Laurier east, and bought a whole bunch of raw milk Quebec cheeses (which made for a lovely lunch with an assortment of breads from Le Fromentier and a bottle of chilled Viognier.) We really are privileged in this city to have access to such an amazing variety of cheeses, especially those from Quebec.

        2. "La Vois Lactée" cheese makers closed it doors this week; due to problems in their pastorisation (sp?) system.