Food Safety Magazine

News | May 5, 2014

New York Cheese Producer Faces Consent Decree for Listeria Contamination

By Heidi Parsons

New York Cheese Producer Faces Consent Decree for Listeria Contamination

A Trumansburg, NY cheese producer has been hit with a consent decree by a U.S. District Court due to Listeria contamination of its processing facility and its product, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).announced last week.

On April 28, U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Arcara of the Western District of New York entered a consent decree of permanent injunction between the United States and Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese Company, LLC, and its co-owner Nancy Taber Richards. Under the consent decree, Finger Lakes, the manufacturer and distributor of raw cow’s milk cheese, cannot receive, prepare, process, pack, hold or distribute food until it demonstrates that it has developed a control program to eliminate Listeria monocytogenes from its production facility and products.

FDA officials said the company must, among other actions, hire an independent laboratory to collect and analyze samples for the presence of Listeria; retain an independent sanitation expert; develop a program to control Listeria in the production facility and to train employees on sanitary food handling; and destroy all food items currently in the facility. Should the company be permitted to resume operations, the FDA may require the company to recall products or cease production if future violations occur.

“The FDA repeatedly advised the company and its owner of the insanitary conditions at the facility,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “When a company continues to produce food that presents a risk for consumers, the FDA will take regulatory action to protect the public’s health.”

Although no illnesses have been reported from the consumption of Finger Lakes’ products, FDA inspections since 2012 have documented serious deficiencies in the company’s processing facility. The FDA issued a warning letter to the company in October 2012. In addition, FDA laboratory testing in 2012 and 2013 found Listeria monocytogenes in Finger Lakes’ finished cheese products and in its facility.