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Former New York Cheese Producer Sentenced for Selling Raw Milk Cheese Products Linked to Listeria Outbreak

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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 9, 2024

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Johannes Vulto, age 64, a former raw milk cheese manufacturer, and Vulto Creamery LLC, the company Vulto founded and owned, were each sentenced today in federal court in Syracuse after each previously pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count of causing the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce, relating to the sale and distribution of cheese that was linked to a 2016-2017 outbreak of listeriosis, the disease caused by the pathogen Listeria monocytogenes

Vulto was sentenced to 3 years of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $100,000, and to perform 240 hours of community service. Vulto Creamery LLC, which no longer operates, was sentenced to 1 year of probation. United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman and Special Agent in Charge Fernando McMillan, of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations New York Field Office, announced the sentences.

In previously pleading guilty, Vulto admitted that he oversaw operations at the Vulto Creamery manufacturing facility in Walton, New York, including those relating to sanitation and environmental monitoring. Vulto and Vulto Creamery both admitted that between December 2014 and March 2017, they caused the shipment in interstate commerce of adulterated cheese. According to the plea agreement, environmental swabs taken at the Vulto Creamery facility between approximately July 2014 and February 2017 repeatedly tested positive for Listeria species. The Listeria family includes both harmless species and L. monocytogenes, which can cause listeriosis in humans.

Listeriosis is a severe, invasive illness that can be life-threatening in some cases. Persons who have the greatest risk of experiencing listeriosis due to consumption of foods contaminated with L. monocytogenes are pregnant women and their newborns, the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems.

In March 2017, after the FDA linked Vulto Creamery’s cheese to an outbreak of listeriosis, Vulto shut down the Vulto Creamery facility and issued a partial recall that was expanded to a full recall within weeks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the listeriosis outbreak resulted in eight hospitalizations and two deaths.

The case was investigated by the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, and it was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney James T. Nelson of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Northern District of New York Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael F. Perry.

Further information about the case is posted under “Information for Victims in Large Cases” at the Consumer Protection Branch’s website: www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information about the enforcement efforts of the Consumer Protection Branch visit www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.

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