Even the most casual shopper of warehouse discounter Costco knows that a big part of the allure is all those free samples.
From fresh pineapple to salmon spread to just-brewed coffee, it's hard to say no as you push those double-wide carts down the aisles.
But now Costco, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are warning consumers who might have consumed free samples of certain gouda cheese or bought some in stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada that they might have been exposed to a E. coli 0157:H7.
The culprit, according to the CDC, is Bravo Farms Dutch Style Gouda Cheese (Costco item 40654). As of Nov. 4 the cheese had been linked to 25 cases of E. coli infection in the five states and 9 hospitalizations.
That particular strain of E. coli not only causes gastrointestinal symptoms, but can also lead to kidney failure, and in rare cases, death. Those at highest risk are the very young and the very old.
Costco and the health agencies are urging customers who purchased the cheese not to consume it, and to either return it to the store, or else to discard it in a sealed plastic bag in a closed trash can to prevent it from being consumed by other people or animals.
Shots called and e-mailed Bravo Farms for comment but didn't hear back immediately.