The FDA has updated its investigation and criminal charges against Roos Foods Inc. in association with the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to the company’s cheeses. On Friday, January 22, 2016, the Department of Justice filed criminal information in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, charging the company with “the distribution of adulterated cheese in interstate commerce.”
The company has signed a plea agreement in which it has agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Roos and its principals, Ana A. Roos and Virginia Mejia, agreed to a proposed consent decree of permanent injunction.
A multistate outbreak of listeriosis linked to Hispanic-style cheese products made and distributed by Roos Foods of Kenton, Delaware was investigated by the FDA and the CDC. The outbreak was declared over on April 18, 2014, after eight people in two states were sickened.
Whole genome sequencing of the bacteria isolated from Roos Foods cheese products were found to be “highly related” to the Listeria strains isolated from patients in the outbreak. Roos Foods voluntarily recalled all lots, sizes, and types of cheese distributed under the Amigo, Anita, Mexicana, and Santa Rose de Lima brands. In addition, all product sizes and containers of Santa Rosa de Lima Crema Salvadorena Cultured Sour Cream, Santa Rosa de Lima Mantequilla de Bolsa Tradicion Centroamericana, Crema Pura Mexicana Cultured Sour Cream, La Chapina Crema Guatemalteca Guatemalan Style Cream, and Amigo Brand Crema Centroamericana Cultured Sour Cream were recalled from the marketplace. Those products were sold in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The FDA suspended the food facility registration of Roos Foods on March 11, 2014 after the FDA determined that there was a “reasonable probability of food manufactured, processed, packed, or held by Roos Foods causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans.” Insanitary conditions were found inside the plant.
The roof was leaking so badly that water was “raining down” into the cheese processing room, into equipment and storage tanks. Standing water on the floor throughout the cheese curd processing room was found; this is a prime environment for Listeria monocytogenes growth. In addition, metal roof and ceilings were rusted, with metal flaking making the surfaces impossible to effectively clean. Food residues were found on equipment after cleaning, and floors, walls, and equipment were deteriorated and in bad repair.
The FDA also collected environmental samples from the facility, and identified 12 swabs that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Pulsed field-gel electrophoresis analysis found that 11 of those swabs had the same Listeria monocytogenes DNA fingerprint as the outbreak strain.
If you purchased any of the recalled Roos Foods products, do not eat them. Throw them away in a sealed container or return them to the place of purchase for a refund. Then wash your refrigerator with a mild bleach solution to kill any remaining bacteria, since this bacteria grows at refrigerator temperatures.
If you ate any of the Roos Foods products, and have experienced the symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes food poisoning, see your doctor. Those symptoms include flu-like fever and muscle aches, upset stomach or diarrhea, stiff neck, headache, loss of balance, confusion, or convulsions.