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US cheese producer closed by FDA

By Joe Whitworth , 11-Apr-2012

A US-based cheese manufacturer has been forced to close by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to fears of listeria contamination in its products.

Del Bueno signed a consent decree of permanent injunction with the FDA to keep its products off the market until they are proven to be safe for consumption.

The firm, which processes a variety of cheeses and distributes them to speciality stores and restaurants, agreed to the decree entered by US district judge Lonny R. Suko of the Eastern District of Washington earlier this month.

Shut down

Under the decree, the firm cannot process or distribute until it demonstrates a control program to eliminate listeria from its production facility and products.

The cheese processor must destroy all food items in the facility, retain an independent sanitation expert, develop an English and Spanish listeria control program for employees and hire an independent laboratory to collect and analyse product samples for the presence of the foodborne pathogen, according to the decree.

The FDA could enforce the company to recall products or cease production if future violations occur, if it is given the go-ahead to resume production.

Past offences

Since 2009, the FDA and Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) inspections have documented a number of deficiencies in the processing facility.

The FDA and WSDA repeatedly advised Del Bueno of unsanitary conditions at the facility after FDA testing in 2010 found listeria in the firm’s finished cheese products and at the site.

In 2010, the firm’s queso fresco cheese was linked to a case of listeriosis but no illnesses have been reported this year from the company’s products.

Dara A. Corrigan, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs said: “When a company continues to produce food that presents a risk for consumers, the FDA will take action.

“We will not hesitate to protect the public’s health.”