In early March, the Walton, N.Y.-based company recalled all of its cheeses after some products were linked to a multi-state listeria outbreak that killed two people. The listeriosis-causing L. monocytogenes pathogen had been identified on three wheels of Vulto’s washed-rind Ouleout.
The 9-page-long report notes that between July 2014 and February 2017, 198 environmental samples from various locations inside Vulto’s facility were tested for Listeria. Of these, 54 came back positive for Listeria spp.* Ten of these samples originated from multiple brushes and wooden aging boards—items with direct contact to cheese—between October 2014 and April 2015. Vulto reportedly cleaned the affected areas in his facility, but did not implement more effective sanitizing measures after subsequent samples continued to show Listeria spp. The report also mentions that Vulto neither investigated the specific Listeria species nor the potential source of the bacteria.
Inspectors also witnessed a number of sanitary issues during their seven facility visits between Feb. 28, and March 22, 2017. These include an employee sticking his bare hands and arms into a vat to break up curds (with his arms showing visible cuts and abrasions); rust-like substances on machinery, storage spaces, and a ladle used for scooping milk; and dust-covered fans used to dry wooden cheese aging boards. Vulto also told investigators that he had never calibrated temperatures in the cheese aging room and walk-in cooler.
The FDA’s complete report can be found here.
*Listeria spp. encompasses all of the various Listeria species, including nonpathogenic L. innocua and L. grayi, and the harmful L. monocytogenes.
Feature Photo Credit: Gregory Cherin