Cheesecake Factory Inc. said Monday it had recalled a batch of cheesecakes contaminated with the potentially lethal listeria bacteria.
The Calabasas Hills restaurant operator also recalled all of its baked goods made from July 18 to July 21 as a precautionary measure.
The company said it believes none of the cakes were consumed. There have been no reports of illness due to the contaminated cakes, which were made at the company's Calabasas facility.
A serious case of listeriosis takes one to six weeks to develop, according to the Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies. People most at risk of serious cases are the elderly, children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.
Cheesecake Factory said it discovered the tainted cakes after routine tests. It blamed the outbreak on human error.
The company recalled a batch of white chocolate raspberry cheesecakes that were sold to Olive Garden, the moderately priced sit-down Italian chain owned by Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants Inc.
None of the contaminated cakes was sent to the Cheesecake Factory or any other wholesale customer, the company said.
It is unlikely any of the contaminated cakes were consumed because of Olive Garden's own extensive quality assurance testing, according to Cheesecake Factory's statement.
The company said it has been working with the FDA and Olive Garden since the problem was discovered.
The recall could hurt Cheesecake Factory's business in the short run because of consumer concerns, said Janet Lowder, president of Restaurant Management Services, a consulting firm in Rancho Palos Verdes. She predicts sales might drop by less than 5% in the next few days.
To contain the fallout, Cheesecake Factory probably will unleash a PR offensive emphasizing that the chain discovered the problem itself and quickly recalled the contaminated products, said Carlsbad restaurant consultant Hal Sieling. Given the chain's popularity and reputation for quality, Cheesecake Factory should emerge nearly unscathed if nobody falls ill, he said.
However, if somebody gets sick or dies, "things could get pretty bad pretty quickly," he said.
Cheesecake Factory is in the midst of its biggest expansion ever, with plans to open 11 namesake outlets and one of its upscale Grand Lux restaurants by year's end.
Recently, 180 diners fell sick and one died after contracting salmonella, a food-borne illness caused by bacteria, at a Red Lobster in Chattanooga, Tenn. Shares of Darden, Red Lobster's parent company, fell by about 5% after the announcement of the death.
Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Serious infections can result in meningitis and even death.
Consumers with questions should call (888) 290-9437.
Cheesecake Factory shares fell $2.81, or 9%, to $28.20 on Nasdaq, before the news was announced.