FDA wants to shut down cheese company

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants to shut down a cheese company the agency accused of operating under unsanitary conditions and producing cheese contaminated with Listeria.

The FDA filed for a permanent injunction in U.S. District Court against New Jersey-based Quesos Mi Pueblito, one of the owners, Felix Sanchez, and the plant supervisor, Jesus Galvez.

The plant, which makes a variety of Mexican cheeses sold in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia and the District of Columbia has been subject to recalls due to the contamination. Inspections by state and federal officials revealed the unsanitary conditions, the FDA said. In August, cheese made over a six month period was recalled.

In the complaint, provided to WalletPop, inspectors found a pit in the cheese production room with sewer gases leaking from it, thermometers that register the wrong temperatures -- causing cheese to be "refrigerated" at up to 55 degrees, the use of rusty equipment and an infestation of cockroaches and other insects. Tests also found Listeria in several parts of the facility.

The FDA said the company reported addressing many of the issues in the fall, but retests over several months continued to find contamination at the plant. On other occasions, responding to state officials, the plant was closed for cleaning and repairs only to be cited again for more violations.

Requests to close down facilities are uncommon.

"In general, FDA seeks an injunction against a company after the firm has had multiple opportunities to rectify the situation, or in cases where there is an extreme danger to public health," FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey said in an email. "As you can see in the complaint, this company has had a long inspection record."

No illnesses attributed to the plant's conditions have been reported, she said.

"FDA's work with federal and state partners to root out or remedy food manufacturers not compliant with food safety laws ensures safer foods get to our dinner tables," Michael Chappell, the FDA's acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in a written statement.

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