The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked a federal court to shut down a New York cheese maker over concerns about Listeria monocytogenes contamination.
Mexicali Cheese of Woodhaven, New York, has a history of unsanitary conditions and producing cheese in a facility known to be contaminated with the Listeria bacteria.
Mexicali Cheese allegedly failed to correct violations despite federal and state warnings. Now, according to a complaint for permanent injunction that was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, Mexicali Cheese and two of its officers—Edinson Vergara and Claudia Marin—produced cheese under persistent unsanitary conditions that contributed to widespread Listeria contamination in Mexicali Cheese’s facility.
The complaint, which was filed January 30 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, states that the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets, Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services, also discovered similar unsanitary conditions and product contamination.
Mexicali Cheese makes and distributes a variety of soft Mexican cheeses to grocery stores and supermarkets in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Products include queso fresco [fresh cheese], queso oaxaca [Oaxacan cheese], and queso para freir [cheese for frying].
If the court enters the injunction, it would stop Mexicali Cheese and its officers from manufacturing and distributing food until they can bring their operations into full compliance with the both the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and FDA food safety regulations.
“FDA filed this complaint to protect the health of consumers,” said Dara A. Corrigan, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “Working closely with New York’s Department of Agriculture and Markets, we took this step to ensure that consumers do not eat potentially dangerous foods from this company.”
Meanwhile, as we’ve long explained, the Listeria pathogen is unique because it tends to thrive in colder temperatures, such as those found in refrigerated environments and it also has an unusually long incubation period of up to 70 days, according to experts.
The Listeria monocytogenes pathogen can also lead to the listeriosis infection, which is potentially fatal and can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhea, and nausea, especially in those with weakened immune systems, infants, and the elderly. Vulnerable populations, such as the developing fetus, can suffer serious central nervous system problems.
The infection can also prompt premature births, or the death of the fetus via miscarriage and stillbirth; pregnant women are 20 times likelier to become infected. And, listeriosis can lead to hearing loss or brain damage in newborns, and can lead to neurological effects and cardio respiratory failure in adults.