Guilty plea, injunction for cheesemaker linked to listeriosis outbreak

Three years after its products sickened eight people in a Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) outbreak, Roos Foods, Inc., a Delaware cheese manufacturer, pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor count of violating the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDC Act) by introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. At the same time, Roos Foods and two of its owners entered into a consent decree of permanent injunction requiring them to cease receiving, preparing, processing, packing, holding and distributing all food products unless and until they bring operations into compliance with the FDC Act.

Roos Foods made ready-to-eat cheeses, including ricotta, queso fresco, and fresh cheese curd. In 2013, five adults and three newborns in Maryland and California had listeriosis—a serious, potentially fatal disease caused by L. mono—linked to Roos Foods’ cheese. The Department of Justice noted that L. mono is a “particularly significant public health risk” in ready-to-eat foods, because unlike many foodborne microbes, L. mono is capable of adapting and growing at refrigerator temperatures.

In March 2014, the FDA suspended Roos Foods’ food facility registration after linking the listeriosis outbreak to their cheese products and conducting facility inspections. The FDA’s inspection revealed significant sanitation deficiencies and found L. mono on 12 surfaces in the facility. Roos Foods has not reopened.