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Mexicali Cheese has a Listeria Problem

Saying a New York cheese maker failed to correct repeated violations, despite multiple federal and state warnings, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has gone to court to close down the plant until it complies with food safety regulations.

Mexicali Cheese of Woodhaven, NY produced cheese under persistent unsanitary conditions that contributed to Listeria monocytogenes contamination of the facility and the company’s products, the FDA alleges in a complaint for permanent injunction filed Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice.

According to the FDA news release, Mexicali Cheese makes and distributes a variety of soft Mexican cheeses to grocery stores and supermarkets in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Mexicali Cheese’s products include queso fresco [fresh cheese], queso oaxaca (Oaxacan cheese) and queso para freir [cheese for frying].

In October 2010, an FDA warning letter said inspectors found Listeria monocytogenes in at least five locations inside the Mexicali processing facility. In August that year, the New York Department of Agriculture warned consumers not to eat any Queso Cotija Cheese from Mexicali because of possible Staphylococcus aureus contamination.

The injunction, if entered by the court, would stop the company and its officers from manufacturing and distributing food until they can bring their operations into full compliance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and FDA food safety regulations.

“FDA filed this complaint to protect the health of consumers,” said Dara A. Corrigan, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, in the agency’s statement. “Working closely with New York’s Department of Agriculture and Markets, we took this step to ensure that consumers do not eat potentially dangerous foods from this company.”