After reporting on the Mexicali Cheese Listeria recall for Listeria monocytogenes in July, we wondered why this company was in the news again. In January 2012, the FDA asked a judge to block the company from operating in its New York manufacturing facility because of “persistent unsanitary conditions” that contributed to the contamination.
So we filed a Freedom of Information request to find out. And received a startling document from the Food and Drug Administration. It states that “your firm did not cease operations after signing the Consent Decree and continued to manufacture ready-to-eat cheeses from May 1, 2012 to the present [7/3/12] without receiving written notice from the FDA that your firm appears to be in compliance with the requirements set forth in the Consent Decree.”
The Decree for Permanent Injunction, Civil Action #12-415 was filed on May 1, 2012, and specifies that the company was not to “receive, prepare, process, pack, hold, or distribute any articles of food unless and until the procedural requirements are met.” In other words, the firm was told to shut down and they continued to operate.
There were many problems at that facility, including employees not destroying contaminated food in their custody, not recalling foods, not notifying the FDA about lab analysis, and not establishing a written plan for medial action. Furthermore, the firm did not submit a reportable food report to the FDA within 24 hours after finding that a sample of their ready-to-eat Queso Fresco cheese was contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
There were many problems with sanitary conditions too. Paddles for stirring the cheese were stored leaning up against a wall. Fabric cloths were draped over cheeses stored in the walk-in cooler. Utensils and equipment were not sanitized. Floors were cracked and missing pieces, making them difficult to clean, and plumbing was a source of contamination.