Penn Dutch, which sold meat, poultry, and seafood at two locations in Broward County, FL, has filed for liquidation after closing its stores earlier this month because of listeria contamination. It means the end to a South Florida institution after almost 45 years.
After both locations were found infected with listeria, management voluntarily closed the original Hollywood, FL, store and was then forced to comply with a state order that closed the 15-year old Margate, FL, store. It was the second time in a year Penn Dutch was ordered to close at Margate.
Penn Dutch, however, then ignored the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FSACS) by holding a going-out-of-business sale at the Margate store, stirring more controversy.
In filing for liquidation, Penn Dutch is not likely to leave much for its 85 unsecured creditors. It reports having $9,027 in its operating account, and $490 in its business account. Its payroll account has $139,041. It owes Broward County $14,016 in back taxes.
On Sept. 19, FSACS acted “after Penn Dutch violated multiple stop-use and stop-sale orders and endangered public health by possibly distributing food products contaminated with Listeria pathogens.”
As with any department inspection process, Penn Dutch was provided an opportunity to remedy the situation by disposing of possibly dangerous contaminated products and sanitizing tools and workspaces.
“It’s unfortunate that Penn Dutch chose to disregard our directives and endanger public safety,” said Commissioner Nikki Fried.
“Moving equipment, products, and people in and out of the Listeria monocytogenes positive areas increases the potential for the spread of pathogens and exposes Penn Dutch’s customers and employees to a pathogenic bacteria capable of creating a serious health risk. As the state’s consumer watchdog, our department takes potential foodborne illness extremely seriously, and the Listeria bacteria have a 20 percent mortality rate.”
Beginning in February 2019, the Department confirmed multiple samples of Listeria monocytogenes at both Penn Dutch locations in Margate and Hollywood, FL. After previous inspections identified the bacteria’s presence, Penn Dutch remedied the issues and resumed operations.
On Sept. 9 the Department’s Division of Food Safety collected 110 environmental samples in various areas of Penn Dutch’s Margate store. On Sept. 16, the department’s food laboratory found that 13 of the samples were positive for Listeria monocytogenes.
Positive sample locations
The positive Listeria samples were from the following areas in the Margate store: deli area; deli slicing room; special cuts room; seafood display; seafood cutting area; ready cooler; tray wash hallway; chicken production room; and future room. This includes cutting boards, seafood display trays, and slicers.
Re-inspection and violations
Following the confirmation of positive samples, department inspectors conducted a follow-up inspection at the Margate store on the same day and issued a “Re-Inspection Required” summary citing a violation of Section 500.10(1)(f), Florida statutes, relating to food that “has been produced, prepared, packed, transported, or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may become contaminated with filth, or whereby it may have been rendered diseased, unwholesome, or injurious to health” as evidenced by environmental samples found positive for Listeria monocytogenes.
September 18 Inspection
Stop Use Orders were issued for 15 areas and or items/equipment that were found to and could have potentially come into contact with Listeria monocytogenes. On Sept. 18, the department conducted a “Focused Visit” at the Margate store to check on the issued stop use orders and observed that many had been violated. Department staff alerted the Margate store personnel that the orders remained in effect. On the same day, Penn Dutch announced to the public, via its Facebook page that, “Until Further Notice, our Margate Location will be open every day from 9 am – 5 pm.”
The department’s Director of the Division of Food Safety, Dr. Matthew Curran, has determined that the continued operation of Penn Dutch’s Margate store presents an immediate danger to public health, safety, and welfare.
“When Listeria monocytogenes is found in a region or area of a facility, it’s a general practice to sequester the entire region or area where it was found, as there are no barriers to prevent its migration within that region or area. This could be a cooler, freezer, or room where Listeria monocytogenes was discovered,” said Curran.
“If Listeria monocytogenes is present in a room, it’s nearly impossible to sample every square inch and identify all of the locations the pathogens could have spread to — pathogens are living organisms and are transferrable and mobile. To be safe and protect public health, it is necessary and reasonable to quarantine every possible location pathogens are likely to be present.”
Listeria monocytogenes background
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. An estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis each year and killing about 260. The infection is most likely to sicken pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems.
“Most people with invasive listeriosis require hospital care, and about one in five people with the infection die. When listeriosis occurs during pregnancy, it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or newborn death. Listeriosis during pregnancy results in fetal loss in about 20 percent and newborn death in about 3 percent of cases.”
While elevated temperature can kill pathogens, products must be heated thoroughly to a precise temperature and cooked sufficiently. Listeria monocytogenes easily survives freezing.
Putting that responsibility on the consumer would be irresponsible and pose a serious public health risk — pathogens such as Listeria readily spread in a kitchen and throughout a home, and cause harm or even death.
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