District Court Enters Permanent Injunction Against New York Food Manufacturer Linked to Listeriosis Outbreak
A federal court permanently enjoined a Walton, New York, creamery and its owner from manufacturing and distributing adulterated food, the Department of Justice recently announced.
In a complaint filed March 19 at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the United States alleged that Vulto Creamery LLC and its owner, Johannes H. Vulto, violated the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by manufacturing and distributing ready-to-eat cheeses contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono). According to the complaint, a 2017 investigation by FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined Vulto Creamery cheese was the source of a multistate listeriosis outbreak that sickened at least eight people, two of whom died. The defendants agreed to be bound by a consent decree filed with the complaint in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.
“L. mono is a serious health threat that can prove fatal,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Consumers should be able to trust that the food they buy is safe, and we will continue working with FDA to take action against manufacturers that employ substandard practices.”
“The presence of this dangerous bacteria at a cheese manufacturing facility in Upstate New York is of grave concern,” said U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith for the Northern District of New York. “We will continue to use all available tools to ensure that our food supply is safe and violations of laws protecting public heath are addressed.”
The complaint alleged that the defendants’ cheeses were prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions. According to the complaint, company records revealed positive tests for a type of Listeria in the Vulto facility, but the defendants never attempted to identify the species of Listeria or its source. The complaint alleged the defendants also failed to conduct microbial testing of finished cheese products despite finding indications of Listeria on food contact surfaces. Vulto Creamery used raw, or unpasteurized, milk to make its ready-to-eat cheese.
The consent decree entered by the court permanently enjoins the defendants from violating the FDCA. Under the order, the defendants may not manufacture or distribute food unless they comply with specific remedial measures set forth in the decree. Among other requirements, the defendants must hire a qualified independent expert to develop an effective sanitation control program to adequately control for the risk of L. mono. Before manufacturing or distributing any food, defendants must first receive FDA’s written determination that their manufacturing practices comply with the law.
This matter was handled by Trial Attorney Natalie Sanders of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gadarian of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York, with the assistance of Associate Chief Counsel for Enforcement Leslie Cohen of the FDA’s Office of General Counsel, Department of Health and Human Services.
Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York, visit its website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndny.