Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Rodent Infestation Led to Wisconsin Cheese Seizure

The contents of the sealed complaint that led to last week’s raid by U.S. Marshals of  Brunkow Cheese of Wisconsin Inc., located near Darlington, were made public after the  cheese products were seized by the government.

The complaint details in writing and with more than a dozen photographs just how bad the rodent infestation problem was and how recently it was documented by federal inspectors (May 10).

“Rodents may transmit disease-causing strains of pathogenic microorganisms to human beings in this manner, and may spread diseases such as leptospirosis, plague, and murine typhus,” the complaint says.

Rodent excreta pellets established that cheese was being held in insanitary conditions “whereby they likely have become contaminated with filth,” the complaint added.

The last comprehensive inspection of Brunkow Cheese was conducted from Feb. 14 through Feb. 25, 2011 and it “revealed evidence of widespread rodent infestation.”  Rodents were getting into the cheese facility in part because of building defects, including gaps in exterior doors and holes leading to the outside, FDA said.

FDA returned on April 22 and concluded Brunkow Cheese had taken some corrective actions, including repairs to the roof, doors, and exterior walls, but still had not resolved the rodent contamination problem.

One example cited in the complaint was that a rodent carcass first observed in Februar had not been removed in April.

Photos were provided to the U.S. District Court for Western Wisconsin that show rodent bite marks on cheese packages in the Brunkow Cheese retail store, gnawed cheese, rodent excrement on cheese packages, and pieces of old cheese, filth and apparent rodent pellets scattered on the floor.

The court ordered a “warrant of arrest for the defendant articles of food,” which included all cheese products held in the facility except those in the aging room.

© Food Safety News
  • Minkpuppy

    Strategically placed bait boxes will take care of the rodents and they are a relatively inexpensive solution. The bait box also prevents the critters from crawling off and dying in a wall somewhere. The boxes have to be checked daily, or multiple times in a day, when the infestation is severe. Otherwise, it’s a wasted investment.
    It boggles my mind that this situation got so far out of control in a food production facility. I’ve worked in several meat plants and they are usually able to keep rodents out of the buildings even if the place is old and decrepit. Some do have occasional problems during cold weather but get them corrected immediately when it’s brought to their attention. Only negligent (or hard-headed) owners allow conditions to get this bad.

  • dangermaus

    Sounds about right to me, Mink, although I always wonder about the effectiveness of baiting, which is the method of choice for Chicago’s department of Streets and Sanitation.
    Is it that baiting is genuinely that much more effective, or is it that poison is a nice “set it and forget it” solution? Traps certainly seem less likely to have untended problems like accidental poisoning. I live in a major city and I keep chickens, and I try to stay ahead of the rats – you can’t eradicate them because they’re everywhere, but you can keep them from visiting regularly or settling in. I’ve found live traps to be more effective than baits (though it’s a little unpleasant to deal with the trapped animal). They also allow you to release unintended animals like birds or squirrels that get caught in the trap. Rats never seem to touch the baits I put out, and eventually my dachshund inevitably gets them (gets into the bait – although he has gotten a couple of the rats)…
    Maybe they have different stuff than you can buy at the home center?