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Cheese Magic reponds to listeria scare

Kensington Businesses Face Ongoing Listeria Concerns

Just when we thought our food was safe to eat and all the blame lay squarely with Maple Leaf Canada, a Listeria scare hit our beloved Kensington Market. However while headlines focus on Cheese Magic, the local cheese merchant has been left wondering why they - and not the other merchants in Kensington - are the focus of this bad publicity; especially considering that their case of Listeria has proven false so far, while another Kensington business has been closed by Toronto Public Health.

In speaking with owner Ping Chiu and lead staff Jason Monaghan, it's clear that they are confused as to why Cheese Magic has been the focus of all the negative media attention. Several days ago the business, which has been operating for years in Kensington market with an unconditional PASS from Toronto Public Health, became the focus of a Listeria investigation.

What began with a CIFA recall of Roquefort and Comte from one of their suppliers, which Cheese Magic intercepted and returned, soon turned into a full blown Public Health investigation. Apparently a woman (who no one has been able to track down thus far), lodged a complaint against the store claiming she had felt ill after eating soft cheeses. The staff suspect that Public Health was quick to make an example of their store given the recent Listeria cases in meat products.

The small cheese business was originally told to shut down while testing was done, and ordered to dispose of all of their product - whether packages had been opened or not - which would have been an incredibly unnecessary loss. The store had already removed any cheese mentioned in the 'ghost' complaint voluntarily, and eventually Public Health told the owner that unopened product could be kept and the store could remain open.

Cheese Magic was also told to make several changes to its equipment, including the purchase of over $4000 of new refrigeration equipment. Over the course of their brief closure, the merchant has made these and further changes to ensure food safety, and is also taking measures to prevent the suspected cheese from being sold in other stores. Overall they have not seen any decline in business and have had much local support; but much like myself they are surprised at the negative image being painted of the story in the media.

Global Cheese

Strolling over to Global Cheese, who does not store all their product in refrigerated cases, I found that they continue to display an unconditional PASS in their window. I have never had a problem with either store, but Global Cheese is known for their 'out in the open' sampling, and I am surprised none of the Listeria concerns have been cast on their establishment.

j&j fruit market

Even more shocking is the complete oversight of the closure at J & J Fruit Market, whose staff say will not reopen for a month. They were disposing of all their product today and, as you can see, have been closed by Toronto Public Health despite having passed a May 2008 inspection.

Coverage of the Listeria scare in Kensington has been squarely focused on Cheese Magic, and the merchant only hopes the public understands that there is more to the story at hand. CP24 has had several conversations with the store about the situation, but Monaghan is frustrated that they have reported only the negative side, without any mention of the J&J Fruit Market closure.

It is important to remember that Listeria is a rather ubiquitous microorganism which is commonly found in soil, plants, and food. Finding traces of Listeria in food does not necessarily mean that ingestion will result in the illness Listeriosis.

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