May 21, 2019

Cheese Listeria Outbreak Caused 2013 Shutdown of Crave Brothers

Cheese Listeria Lawyer for Crave Brothers VictimsOn July 3, 2013, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Company of Waterloo, Wisconsin, voluntarily recalled its Les Frères, Petit Frère, and Petit Frère with Truffles cheeses with make dates of July 1, 2013, or prior. The recalled cheeses were distributed nationwide through retail stores that included some Whole Foods outlets, restaurant supply carriers and mail orders. Investigators in Minnesota and elsewhere, including food safety and infectious disease experts at the FDA and CDC, associated the cheese with a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis from the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.

This food poisoning outbreak killed a person in Minnesota and caused a pregnant woman to have a miscarriage. Four other people were hospitalized and the outbreak touched Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Texas. The link between the illnesses and Crave Brothers was established by laboratory tests in Minnesota on cheeses sampled from two retail stores.

The Listeria cheese lawsuit evidence in this case is centered on a highly discriminatory molecular subtyping method known as whole genome sequencing (WGS). Beyond reasonable doubt, the Listeria discovered in Crave Brothers cheese at that time shared the same DNA fingerprint as the Listeria found in case patients who suffered so greatly. In addition, FDA inspectors collected a sample of Petit Frère with Truffles from inside the Crave Brothers plant that also was found to contain the outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes. The link was strong enough for the FDA to step in and oversee corrective actions at Crave Brothers — a move that included a voluntary, temporary shutdown of the company’s cheese plant that started in July 2013.

According to FDA inspection results, the company failed to “manufacture, package, and store products under conditions necessary to minimize the potential for microbial growth and contamination.” Crave Brothers also failed to clean food-contact surfaces and utensils as frequently as necessary to prevent contamination, the FDA wrote. The inspectors noted “failure to maintain building, fixtures and other physical facilities in a sanitary condition.”

While Crave Brothers was shut down, company officials worked out a Voluntary Compliance Agreement with the FDA and Wisconsin agriculture authorities. The work included sanitizing and disinfecting the entire firm, replacing faulty and difficult-to-clean equipment, changing sanitary practices and traffic patterns during production, and establishing a product and environmental Listeria monitoring program.

Regulatory oversight of the cheese plant has continued. On Dec. 1, 2013, Wisconsin gave Crave Brothers a conditional license restricting production to mozzarella cheese. This included a rigorous microbiological sampling program and put in place a “hold and test” protocol, state officials reported.  As of April 18, 2014, the firm was authorized by Wisconsin to produce mozzarella and mascarpone cheeses, according to the FDA.

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