Listeria, Unsanitary Conditions, Prompt FDA To Act Against NJ Cheese Maker

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), just announced its intention to ask a federal court to shut down a New Jersey cheese manufacturer with an alleged history of operating under “insanitary” conditions and producing cheese contaminated with <"">Listeria monocytogenes.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint for permanent injunction against Quesos Mi Pueblito and two of its officers, Felix Sanchez and Jesus Galvez. The complaint alleges that recent inspections by the FDA and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services found Listeria-contaminated cheese and insanitary conditions at the Passaic company.

Listeriosis, the infection caused by the Listeria pathogen, is dangerous and can often be deadly, causing serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals may suffer short-term symptoms, such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In pregnant women, Listeriosis can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth of a baby suffering from the infection. Pregnant women are about 20 times likelier than others to be infected, with about one-third of all Listeriosis cases occurring during pregnancy. Listeriosis can kill fetuses, prompt premature births, and can lead to hearing loss or brain damage in newborns and neurological effects and cardio respiratory failure in adults, reported the LATimes.

If entered by the court, the injunction would stop Quesos Mi Pueblito and its officers from manufacturing and distributing food until the firm can bring its operations into full compliance with FDA food safety regulations and produce cheese that does not test positive for the presence of Listeria.

The complaint for permanent injunction was filed in the U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey. “FDA’s work with federal and state partners to root out or remedy food manufacturers not compliant with food safety laws ensures safer foods get to our dinner tables,” said Michael Chappell, the FDA’s acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs.

Quesos Mi Pueblito currently manufactures and distributes a variety of soft, semi-soft, and hard Mexican cheeses in grocery stores and supermarkets in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Among Quesos Mi Pueblito’s products are queso oaxaca, queso fresco, queso requeson, and queso cotija molido.

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

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