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U.S. Marshals Seize Cheese in Wisconsin

U.S. Marshals this week seized cheese products distributed by Brunkow Cheese of Wisconsin, according to a news release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA said it had requested the action after its inspectors found evidence of rodent infestation at the Darlington plant.

In a complaint unsealed by the U.S. District Court Friday, the FDA alleges that in February it conducted an inspection of the company that revealed evidence of rodents. The agency said a follow-up inspection in late April 2011 found the company had taken corrective action to remedy many of the violations cited in February, but had not resolved the rodent contamination problem.

It then requested the seizure, charging that the products were considered adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  U.S. Marshals carried out the order to hold certain cheese products at the facility on May 17 and 18.

Brunkow Cheese manufactures, packs, labels and distributes cheese products. 

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    Please note the disparity in enforcement action taken between this and similar cheesemakers where no outbreak has occurred and what the FDA did at Wright County Eggs and Hallandale Farms where a huge outbreak occurred.
    Despite being produced in grossly insanitary conditions, Wright County Eggs and Hallandale Farms’ eggs were ONLY DIVERTED to breakers; they were NOT seized by US Marshals. Thus, these huge egg producers only had their INCOME REDUCED NOT WIPED OUT as Brunkow Cheese and similar cheesemakers have because have their products seized.
    Another small cheesemaker will find it very difficult to stay in business because its income stream has been stopped for an indeterminate period and the cost of a court fight is prohibitive.
    This exercise of power by the FDA is nothing compared to the power that it can exert under the new Sec. 418 Hazard Analysis Risk Based Preventive Control (HARPC plan) requirement where it can simply refuse to accept a proposed plan without having to say how to fix it. Without an approved plan by the deadline, all production is stopped. Thus, Sec 418 also gave the FDA an increased ability to retaliate against those it regulates.
    Furthermore, the reports as published by FSN give little or no information about the scale of the evidence of rodents. It appears that even small evidence is being used to declare all of the product as having been produced under insanitary conditions. Were restaurant and other prepared food inspectors to use similar standards, how many restaurants and other prepared food establishments would be closed?
    And aren’t flies even greater vectors of foodborne illness than rodents?

  • http://bullstone-larrym.blogspot.com LARRY STONE

    I have been fighting to have millions of pounds of contaminated meat recalled that was produced using a warehouse facility that makes the PBA facility look like the Ritz. The pictures I gave to the USDA and the FDA showed RAT fecal matter and rodents nests on food ingredients and materials, I submitted documents to the USDA proving the use of this contaminated warehouse for years and was denied a recall of my own products .Why –to protect a State institution that was contracted to produce this meat for my company.
    Agencies state the manufacturer must generate the recall and the FDA and USDA not having the authority to initiate this action as the reason bad food gets into the system .This is not so ,I am proof of this statement not being accurate. Even when the USDA went and found this contaminated warehouse with live rodents they never tested any product for salmonella and co-operated with the state of Florida to use possible contaminated ingredients in further meat processing.
    I appeal to you to visit my blog site http://bullstone-larrym.blogspot.com/ and see the evidence of rat fecal contamination in meats produced by an instrument of the State of Florida department of Corrections. I have been battling with the USDA to issue a recall on the millions of pounds of meat the State of Florida produced under contract for my company. This meat was distributed nation wide to schools, supermarkets and institutions. When we discovered that this Florida State division was storing food supplies and edible ingredients in a rat infested warehouse we began our quest to get this information to the public and get accountability placed on those who allowed this to happen. When you read the information on my blog you will see the validity of both our stories .I support your efforts and request your support of mine. Larry Stone

  • Harry Hamil

    Please note the disparity in enforcement action taken between this and similar cheesemakers where no outbreak has occurred and what the FDA did at Wright County Eggs and Hallandale Farms where a huge outbreak occurred.
    Despite being produced in grossly insanitary conditions, Wright County Eggs and Hallandale Farms’ eggs were ONLY DIVERTED to breakers; they were NOT seized by US Marshals. Thus, these huge egg producers only had their INCOME REDUCED NOT WIPED OUT as Brunkow Cheese and similar cheesemakers have because have their products seized.
    Another small cheesemaker will find it very difficult to stay in business because its income stream has been stopped for an indeterminate period and the cost of a court fight is prohibitive.
    This exercise of power by the FDA is nothing compared to the power that it can exert under the new Sec. 418 Hazard Analysis Risk Based Preventive Control (HARPC plan) requirement where it can simply refuse to accept a proposed plan without having to say how to fix it. Without an approved plan by the deadline, all production is stopped. Thus, Sec 418 also gave the FDA an increased ability to retaliate against those it regulates.
    Furthermore, the reports as published by FSN give little or no information about the scale of the evidence of rodents. It appears that even small evidence is being used to declare all of the product as having been produced under insanitary conditions. Were restaurant and other prepared food inspectors to use similar standards, how many restaurants and other prepared food establishments would be closed?
    And aren’t flies even greater vectors of foodborne illness than rodents?

  • dangermaus

    I share Harry’s skepticism about the story because the lack of details of the rodent infestation. It’s not really possible to keep a building *completely* free of all types of vermin at all times (although obviously, a comprehensive approach to excluding and controlling them is a basic requirement of anywhere that processes food).
    This kind of information is important, because stories like this trigger a visceral “yuck” response in most people, and makes them want action taken even though they don’t really know the details of what was going on. If a big outfit like, say, Dean’s Foods had a problem like this, they have plenty of PR folks and an advertising budget to re-adjust the public’s opinion of them, while that is not true for a small, owner-managed company.

  • Minkpuppy

    Mr. Stone,
    It’s somewhat difficult to see what is on those boxes in your pictures but if it was rat feces then as an FSIS inspector, I can tell you this: The problem is the FSIS District Office in charge of Florida. Somebody mishandled that investigation and is now covering their butts with DC. We had a similar situation in the District I’m in and I can vouch that all of the rodent affected meats and materials were destroyed. The plant was shut down for several days while they cleaned it up. This is a great example of the inconsistency of enforcement within FSIS and it disgusts me to no end. There’s no way that a facility could handle those boxes in such a way that the rodent feces did not fall into the meat once the box was open. If they allowed some cock-eyed scheme to “clean” the outside of the boxes, I’ll puke. The packaging materials should have been thrown out–period.
    Regarding the diversion of salmonella positive meat and eggs to cooking–cooking is the only way to get rid of salmonella without destroying the meat entirely. Pastuerizing eggs takes care of the Salmonella while still allowing the eggs to be used in some way. I’m not aware of any lethality treatments that can be used to treat contaminated cheeses other than possibly irradiation.
    When the meat is diverted to cooking, the cooking facility and the original processor have to obtain permission to do so from the District office and provide tons of documentation that the meat was cooked to lethality and it has to be done when the inspector is on the premises so the inspector can verify that it was done properly. Egg pastuerization also takes place under FSIS inspection supervision (don’t know why when FDA has jurisdiction over the raw eggs–it’s stupidity if you ask me).
    I do think it’s pretty pitiful that the USDA egg graders at Wright County couldn’t do anything to address the problems there other than writing up a report. This arbitrary silliness of splitting up various foods between FDA and FSIS needs to stop. FSIS needs to have jurisdiction over all animal based foods and FDA needs to have the rest.

  • http://freefromharm.org Robert

    Is it unusual to find rodents in dairy facilities? That would be the least of my concerns. Far more compelling to me is the conditions under which dairy cows are raised and the implications of dairy consumption on human health (even for so called “humane” certified product. A good fact sheet at http://freefromharm.org/farm-animal-welfare/what-about-humanely-raised-milk-and-dairy-products/.

  • Claire

    I’ve bought cheese there for years!  I know live in WA state and was thinking about having some shipped to me.  Has this been resolved?