The Walton, NY-based Vulto Creamery has been named in the wrongful death of Richard Friedman by the Listeria victim’s widow, Vermont resident Veronica Friedman.
Mr Friedman died last Nov. 2 after suffering a massive stroke caused by the Listeriosis infection he suffered from eating the raw milk cheese manufactured by the Vulto Creamery. The cheese was contaminated with Listeria.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ms. Friedman in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York against Vulto Creamery on March 13 by attorneys Ronald G. Hull of Rochester, NY and William D. Marler of Seattle.
The Friedmans purchased the contaminated cheese in early October and Mr. Friedman symptoms were serious enough to cause him to go to the Emergency Room at Brattleboro Hospital on Oct. 11. He was transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center on Oct. 12. After a week and half, he was transferred to Mt. Ascutney Rehab in Windsor, VT. It was there that he suffered the massive stroke and was airlifts back to Dartmouth-Hitchcock, where he died.
“People think of food poisoning as inconvenient rather than really dangerous,” said Marler, who is an attorney for Ms. Friedman, and who is recognized nationally for his food safety expertise. “But the reality is that what you eat can seriously damage or even kill you. Food providers have a responsibility to protect the lives of their customers, especially when producing raw milk products, which poise a higher risk to consumers.”
Six people were hospitalized and two died, between Sept. 1, 2016 and Jan. 22, 2017, who were infected with an outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes that has been associated with raw milk cheese from the Vulto Creamery. Persons with the illnesses range in age from 55 to 89.
State and local public health officials along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been investigating the outbreak since Jan. 31, 2017.
Vulto Creamery customers first learned of the outbreak after March 3 and March 7 when the company began making contacts after FDA retail testing of Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie, and Willowemoc cheeses came back with positives.
FDA on March 8, 2017 were provided with positive test results from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets that also matched the genetic fingerprint of the outbreak strain.
Listeria causes an estimated 2,600 cases per year of the severe invasive illness called listeriosis.
It results in outbreaks with among the highest fatality rates as any other pathogen. Listeria can grow in cold temperatures and often spreads and grows in food processing facilities once it established a niche.
Pregnant women are also 20 times more likely to become infected with Listeria than other adults and 22 percent of those illnesses typically result in stillborn or neonatal deaths.
Symptoms include chills, severe headache, vomiting, and other flu like illnesses. More severe cases may experience blood infections, meningitis and death. In addition to raw milk cheese, which is not subjected to pasteurization, deadly Listeria outbreaks have been associated with ready-to-eat meats, cantaloupe, and other food products.
Marler, who is managing partner the only law firm in the nation focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation, is also publisher of Food Safety News.
In the wrongful death lawsuit, the attorneys for the deceased are demanding a jury trial.
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