By:  Jory D. Lange, Jr.

On March 11, 2017, Vulto Creamery voluntarily expanded its recall of its raw milk (unpasteurized) soft cheeses out of abundance of caution. As of now, there is confirmed testing on several samples of Ouleout wheels, the company’s mainstay cheese. The company states the recall expansion includes “all lots for four additional cheeses which include, by name the following: Andes, Blue Blais, Hamden, & Walton Umber. In summary, Vulto Creamery has recalled the following eight cheese items: Heinennellie, Miranda, Wilowemoc, Ouleout, Andes, Blue Blais, Hamden & Walton Umber due to potential contamination of Listeria monocytogenes.” To make it easier for consumers to identify the affected cheeses, FDA has posted photos of the recalled soft cheeses here.

As of the date of this post, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to release any details about the source of the Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Investigations are still underway and new details are routinely released.

The Recall and Expansion Details

Vulto Creamery’s recalls were initiated after testing by the FDA and New York Department of Agriculture and Markets found Listeria contamination in Ouleout wheel cheeses. Importantly, “The particular strain of Listeria monocytogenes found in the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets was found to be similar to the strain isolated from a cluster outbreak of Listeriosis responsible for 6 illnesses and 2 confirmed deaths.” The cheese samples used for testing came from the home of one of the victims, who has since passed, and from the company’s facility. The original March 7, 2017 recall can be read here.

Although there was confirmed testing from cheeses obtained from a victim and from the facility, the partnering government agencies pursued further samples – this time from the retail market. On March 10, 2017, the FDA obtained an additional positive test result from the retail cheese sample. The results matched the same genetic fingerprint of the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria found in the victims and previous test samples. The following day, Vulto Creamery expanded its initial recall.

According to the (FDA), this recall now includes all Vulto Creamery products currently on the market. The full text of the company’s March 11, 2017 recall can be found here.  Vulto’s recall recognizes that:

Listeria monocytogenes is a bacterium which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, pregnant women and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Listeria infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and fetal infection among pregnant women.”

Vulto Creamery sold and distributed these cheeses¾made from raw, unpasteurized milk¾nationwide. Most were sold in the Northeastern states, Mid-Atlantic states, California, Chicago, Portland Oregon, and Washington, D.C.

The Investigation

This multi-state Listeria outbreak is being investigated by local and state public health officials together with the FDA and CDC.  Their joint efforts are currently seeking any additional related cases. They also are trying to find the the source of contamination of the affected cheeses – whether it be the base milk product or issues in the cheese-creation process.

On March 11, 2017, the FDA issued an initial report on its ongoing investigation of the Vulto Creamery Listeria outbreak. The FDA’s report provides the following quick details for consumers and retail establishments:

“Fast Facts”

  • “Vulto Creamery has expanded its recall to include all products on the market: Ouleout, Andes, Blue Blais, Hamden, Heinennellie, Miranda, Walton Umber and Willowemoc.”
  • “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials, has identified Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery of Walton, New York, as the likely source of an outbreak of listeriosis in six people from four states. Two of the six people have died.”
  • “The agencies have been investigating this outbreak since January 31, 2017. After gathering evidence about various cheeses eaten by the people who became ill, CDC identified Ouleout cheese from Vulto Creamery as the likely cause of the outbreak.”
  • “After being informed of a positive test conducted on a retail sample of Ouleout cheese by the FDA, Vulto Creamery began contacting its customers to return Ouleout cheese on March 3, 2017, and on March 7 announced a recall of its Ouleout cheese along with its Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc cheeses. On March 10, Vulto expanded its recall to include all of its cheeses.”
  • “On March 8, 2017, FDA received positive test results from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets confirming samples of Ouleout cheese that matched the genetic fingerprint of Listeria monocytogenes in the outbreak.”

The FDA’s full report on the outbreak and subsequent recall is here.

Listeria Outbreak Victims

This Listeria outbreak currently spans four states: Connecticut, New York, Vermont, and Florida. The Florida victim became ill after returning home from a trip to New York, where the victim consumed Vulto Creamery soft cheese. The first identified victim became ill on September 1, 2016. The most recently identified victim became ill on January 22, 2017.  The oldest patient is 89 years old. The youngest patient is less than a year old. Each of the six victims was hospitalized. Two victims have died. The current health of the other victims has not been released.

Again, the agencies anticipate there are additional cases to be linked to this outbreak. As the latency for Listeria is relatively long, anywhere from three days to 70 days, it is likely cases could come forward as late as mid-May or even early June of 2017. For more information on Listeria symptoms, or for more information about the Vulto Creamery Listeria Outbreak and recall, please visit www.UnsafeFoods.com, Mayo Clinic, and CDC. As always, if you or someone in your family has consumed any of the raw milk soft cheese products subject to this recall, and are feeling ill, medical attention is recommended.

Robins Cloud LLP is a nationwide law firm devoted to helping families who have been harmed by large corporations. Robins Cloud LLP helps victims of defective products and foodborne illnesses. The firm is providing free, no-obligation legal consultations to the sickened adults and families whose children may have been harmed.