July 21, 2019

Another Washington Cheesemaker Ordered To Suspend Operations on Listeria Fears

Within the last 18 months, two cheese companies in Washington state were ordered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to keep all of their products off the market until they could show they had developed a means to keep their products and facilities free of Listeria monocytogenes.

GavelListeria is a foodborne pathogen that can cause serious, sometimes fatal infections. In 2011, a cantaloupe Listeria outbreak sickened 146 people, killed 30 and caused one miscarriage. “If contamination is present in a processing facility,  the chances are good that the contamination will find its way into the product as well,” FDA Public Affairs Officer, Pat El-Hinnawy, told Food Poisoning Bulletin this week.

Last week, the owners of Del Bueno, of Grandview, Wash. agreed to the terms of an April 3 consent decree entered by  U.S. District Judge Lonny R. Suko of the Eastern District of Washington.

The terms of the decree stipulate that Del Bueno cannot resume operations until it can show that it has developed a program to eliminate current and prevent future problems with Listeria contamination. This program must include the following measures: hiring an independent laboratory to test collected samples, retaining an independent sanitation expert, developing a control program for employees in both English and Spanish, and destroying all food items currently in the facility.

Since 2009, the FDA and Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) have recorded a number of problems unsanitary conditions at the company. In 2010, samples from finished products tested positive for Listeria and a case of listeriosis was linked to the company’s cheese.

That same year, another Washington cheese make, Estrella Family Creamery, also had problems with Listeria contamination. In August, environmental samples and one product sample taken form the Montesano, Washington, company tested positive for Listeria, marking the fourth time that year that Estrella products were recalled from the market. Two months later, the United States Marshals Service seized all cheese from the company in accordance with a warrant after the United States Attorney’s Office filed a complaint about unsanitary conditions at the company.

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