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Vulto Creamery Cheese

Vulto Creamery Owner Pleads Guilty in Connection with Raw Milk Listeria Outbreak

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Vulto Creamery Cheese

Johannes Vulto, a former raw milk cheese manufacturer and his company, Vulto Creamery LLC, pleaded guilty to charges related to cheese that was linked to a 2016-2017 outbreak of listeriosis, the U.S. Department of Justic announced earlier this month.

Vulto and Vulto Creamery LLC, each pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of causing the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce. Vulto oversaw operations at Vulto Creamery manufacturing facility in Walton, New York, including those relating to sanitation and environmental monitoring. In pleading guilty, Vulto and Vulto Creamery admitted that between December 2014 and March 2017, they caused the shipment in interstate commerce of adulterated cheese.

According to the plea agreement, environmental swabs taken at the Vulto Creamery facility between approximately July 2014 and February 2017 repeatedly tested positive for Listeria species. In March 2017, after the FDA linked Vulto Creamery’s cheese to an outbreak of listeriosis, Vulto shut down the Vulto Creamery facility and issued a partial recall that was expanded to a full recall within weeks. According to the CDC, the listeriosis outbreak resulted in eight hospitalizations and two deaths.

During a 2017 FDA inspection of the facility, the inspector noted that in the 20 months from 7/28/2014 through 2/19/ 2017, the facility’s records revealed that 54 out of 198 swabs taken from throughout the facility tested positive for Listeria spp. The report also cited several potential causes of the contamination including: storage of sanitized wood boards used to age cheese in the facility attic, where they were exposed to insulation, debris and moisture; failure to maintain building, fixtures and other physical facilities in a sanitary condition; and employees putting their bare hands and arms, up to their elbows, directly into the cheese making vat to manually break up cheese curds. “Although you washed your hands, neither of you washed your lower or upper arms,” the inspector wrote.

“It is crucial that American consumers be able to trust that the foods they buy are safe to eat,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to hold responsible food manufacturers that sell dangerously contaminated products.”

Vulto faces a maximum sentence of up to one year in prison, a term of supervised release up to one year and a fine up to $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for July 9, 2024.