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Vulto Creamery Food Poisoning Outbreak and Recall

On or about March 6, 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced they discovered a link between the Vulto Creamery cheese products and a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak. The link was discovered after six people, ranging in ages from newborn to 89 years, reported severe cases of Listeriosis. All six victims required hospitalization, and two died as a result of their illness. The illnesses began on September 1, 2016 and the latest victim’s illness began on January 22, 2017. The victims are from four states: Vermont, New York, Connecticut and Florida according to the CDC.

The federal agencies, in conjunction with local state health departments, found similar genetic isolates of Listeria monocytogenes in the samples of the six victims. The similarities lead the agencies to conclude that a common contaminated food source may be the link they needed. After conducting interviews, the agencies found they were right – all six people claimed to have eaten soft raw milk cheeses made by New York cheesemaker, Vulto Creamery.

With this discovery, the agencies contacted the victims to see if any cheese was still in their possession. The family of the deceased Connecticut victim graciously provided an unfinished leftover Ouleout soft raw milk cheese from Vulto Creamery to them. The federal agencies in conjunction with the New York Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services obtained samples of three separate cheese wheels of Ouleout soft raw milk cheese from Vulto Creamery’s cheese-making facility. All of the samples were tested. Their results confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, and the samples obtained from Vulto Creamery yielded a similar strain map to that of the victims. The link was confirmed.

The federal and state agencies contacted Vulto Creamery. The company immediately halted production of its cheese products. A subsequent recall, via press release, was commenced by Vulto Creamery. In its release, the company mentioned:

“Vulto Creamery, Walton, New York, is recalling all lots of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses out of an abundance of caution due to testing result from the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which found Ouleout lot # 617 positive for Listeria monocytogenes and New York Department of Agriculture and Markets finding the possible contamination of Ouleout lot #623. Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, pregnant women and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and fetal infection among pregnant women.

Product photos of all four cheese items being recalled along with a brief description are shown. If you have any of this soft, wash-rind raw-milk cheese, please do not consume it. The soft raw milk cheeses were distributed nationwide, with most being sold at retail locations in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, California, Chicago, Portland and Washington, DC.”

The company’s soft raw [unpasteurized] milk cheeses are sold and distributed nationwide. The company reports that they are primarily sold in sold at retail locations in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, California, Chicago, Portland and Washington D.C. For pictures and descriptions of the products involved, you can visit the FDA’s recall website here.

The company is asking that consumers and retailers return the product to them in lieu of disposal. Their recall notice mentions:

“Consumers that have any of these soft raw milk cheeses from Vulto Creamery should return the cheese to the purchase location for a refund. Food and cheese wholesalers and retailers with any of the Vulto Creamery soft, wash-rind raw milk cheeses on hand should immediately remove these products from common storage coolers and quarantine these cheeses in a secured area of a cooler. Any wholesaler or distributor that has any of the four cheeses should contact Vulto Creamery to receive instructions on what to do with the cheese. No recalled cheese should be destroyed until Vulto Creamery has been notified and agrees.”

The company has not yet posted the recall notice on its website or Facebook page.

What is Being Done?

Despite the confirmed link, the CDC, FDA, and state health departments and agencies are keeping an open mind that additional products and cases may be forthcoming. By using the nationwide PulseNet system, the agencies are trying to find any additional cases related to this outbreak. The investigation is ongoing, and the agencies will continue to report their findings with the public through their outbreak websites.

One of Vulto Creamery’s main retailers, WholeFoods, joined the recall and has warned its customers to not eat the affected products. It is hopeful that more retailers will go public with recall notices and warnings to their customers.

Listeria

The concern relating to this outbreak is that the Vulto Creamery cheeses affected by the recall are unpasteurized, raw milk cheeses. They lack the kill step process, pasteurization, to kill any Listeria bacteria that may be present in the origination or cross-contamination during processing of the final product. This is why raw milk products, such as the soft raw milk unpasteurized cheeses we see here, are dangerous.

Signs and symptoms of Listeriosis have a long latency period – from 3 to 70 days. Most healthy adults infected with Listeria monocytogenes will not exhibit symptoms. In fact, high risk pregnant women may only experience a fever and flu-like symptoms. Usually, babies born to infected mothers will show symptoms of vomiting, irritability, fever, and little interest in feeding.

Listeriosis can show different symptoms, depending on the person. Some people may have many or few symptoms. For purposes of reference, the generalized symptoms of Listeriosis could include, in no particular order:

Listeriosis has the ability to become invasive, or move to other parts of the body. Invasive Listeriosis could result in central nervous system issues, like meningitis, or bacteremia, an infection of the bloodstream.

Listeriosis is especially concerning to people who are very young, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems (like HIV, cancer, and organ-transplant patients) as well as pregnant women. Those in this high risk group are especially cautioned to monitor themselves for any signs and symptoms of Listeriosis. Urgent medical attention is recommended.

For more information about Listeria, you can visit our food safety blog at www.UnsafeFoods.com.

How Can I Keep My Family Safe?

The FDA and CDC have announced that it is likely that affected products are still in consumer’s homes. Therefore, they recommend that consumers not eat any of the affected products and check their homes, even if they ate them prior and did not get sick.

If you or someone you care about ingested any Vulto Creamery cheese products subject to this outbreak and recall, and are sick, immediate medical attention is recommended. Those who have eaten the affected products are cautioned by the federal agencies to monitor themselves for any signs and symptoms of Listeriosis.

You can also visit us at UnsafeFoods.com or call us for answers to your questions, address your concerns, and to help you understand the legal process at (855) 969-5637.

We welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Neither the completion of an intake nor the submission of any other information to this law firm constitutes the establishment of an attorney client relationship. No attorney client relationship will exist between us without a specific written retainer agreement between you and this firm. The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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