Listeria Cheese Manufacturer Faces FDA Enforcement Action

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), just filed a complaint seeking injunctive relief against Peregrina Cheese, Inc., Brooklyn, New York and two of its officers: Javier Peregrina and Isabel Peregrina.

The FDA explained that Peregrina Cheese prepares and processes a variety of cheeses, sour cream, flan, and gelatin products and distributes them to specialty grocery stores in northeastern Pennsylvania and in the New York City area. The government’s complaint, filed in the Eastern District of New York, alleges that Peregrina Cheese has an extensive history of operating under insanitary conditions and producing cheese contaminated with the dangerous, sometimes deadly, <"">Listeria monocytogenes.

If entered by the court, the injunction would temporarily stop the company and its officers from manufacturing and distributing food until the court takes further action. “This company has consistently failed to make corrections to improve the insanitary conditions under which it processes cheese products, despite frequent warnings to do so,” said Michael Chappell, the FDA’s acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “The FDA will not tolerate food companies that fail to provide adequate safeguards,” Chappell added.

“When called upon by the FDA, the Department of Justice is ready and able to prevent the distribution of adulterated food to American consumers,” said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s Civil Division. “The public must be able to trust that the food in their grocery stores is safe for them to eat,” said Benton J. Campbell, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “We will continue to work with the FDA to ensure that companies that produce food under dangerous or insanitary conditions take corrective action to clean up their act.”

The complaint alleges that, on numerous occasions since 2004, FDA investigators found Listeria monocytogenes in finished cheese products and inside Peregrina Cheese’s facility. Routine laboratory testing by New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) found Listeria in the company’s products on numerous occasions since 2003. The FDA and NYSDAM inspections also revealed that Peregrina Cheese repeatedly violated the current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) requirements for foods. Investigators found filthy conditions, standing water in food processing equipment, workers inappropriately dressed, and a dead rodent inside the plant.

The government’s complaint alleges that the FDA and NYSDAM repeatedly advised Peregrina Cheese and its officers of their cGMP violations; NYSDAM has also assessed fines against the company. Peregrina Cheese’s lack of effective measures to bring its food processing operations into compliance with the law poses a public health threat because of the potential that Listeria will be in the food processed by the company.

Listeriosis, the illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes, can be serious and can sometimes cause fatal infections in young children, frail or older people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals may experience high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, Listeria infection in pregnant women can cause miscarriages and stillbirths.

Listeria monocytogenes is responsible for an estimated 2,500 illnesses in the United States annually, with about 200 in every 1,000 cases resulting in death. Listeriosis can take days, even weeks, to develop and can present in anything from a mild flu-like illness to meningitis and septicemia.

We have long been writing about the conditions at Peregrina Cheese and the numerous recalls associated with Listeria contamination with its products.

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