Former Cheese Manufacturer and Company Plead Guilty to Charges in Listeriosis Outbreak

Johannes Vulto and Vulto Creamery LLC admit guilt to causing the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce, linked to a 2016-2017 outbreak of listeriosis.

The plea includes charges related to shipping adulterated cheese between December 2014 and March 2017.

Guilty Plea on Misdemeanor Counts

Johannes Vulto and Vulto Creamery each enter a guilty plea on one misdemeanor count of causing the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce.

Vulto, responsible for overseeing operations, acknowledges the wrongdoing at Vulto Creamery’s facility in Walton, New York.

Admission of Adulterated Cheese Shipment

Vulto and Vulto Creamery confess to causing the shipment of adulterated cheese in interstate commerce between December 2014 and March 2017. This admission is a crucial aspect of the plea agreement.

Environmental Swabs and Listeria Species

As per the plea agreement, environmental swabs at the Vulto Creamery facility repeatedly test positive for Listeria species between July 2014 and February 2017.

The Listeria family includes harmless species and L. monocytogenes, the pathogen causing listeriosis in humans.

FDA’s Intervention and Recall

After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) links Vulto Creamery’s cheese to a listeriosis outbreak in March 2017, Vulto shuts down the facility and issues a recall.

The recall is escalated from partial to full within weeks, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting eight hospitalizations and two deaths.

Justice Department’s Stance on Food Safety

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton emphasizes the Justice Department’s commitment to holding responsible food manufacturers selling dangerously contaminated products.

The plea aims to reinforce the importance of consumer trust in the safety of purchased foods.

Prosecution and Accountability

U.S. Attorney Carla B. Freedman highlights the accountability of the defendant and his business for causing illness and death through unsafe practices.

Law enforcement and regulatory partners collaborate to bring justice to those endangering the public with unsafe and unsanitary products.

FDA’s Vigilance for Public Safety

Special Agent in Charge Fernando McMillan from FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations New York Field Office emphasizes the FDA’s role in ensuring safe and wholesome food for U.S. consumers. When companies prioritize their interests over public safety, the FDA vows to bring them to justice.

Listeriosis Severity and High-Risk Groups

Listeriosis is characterized as a severe, invasive illness, potentially life-threatening.

Pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems face the highest risk of experiencing listeriosis due to contaminated foods.

Guilty Plea Proceedings

Vulto and Vulto Creamery enter their guilty pleas before Magistrate Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks in Syracuse, New York.

A sentencing date is pending court determination, with further case information available on the Consumer Protection Branch’s website.

FDA’s Investigative Role

The FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations investigates the case, highlighting the agency’s dedication to addressing companies and individuals producing unsafe and harmful food products.

Enforcement Efforts and Prosecution Team

Senior Trial Attorney James T. Nelson and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael F. Perry lead the prosecution, emphasizing the Consumer Protection Branch’s commitment to enforcing food safety regulations.

Information about the case and the Consumer Protection Branch’s efforts can be found on the Justice Department’s website.

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