A Former Cheesemaker Has Pleaded Guilty in Connection With a Listeria Outbreak that Resulted in the Deaths of Two Individuals


Former cheese manufacturer Johannes Vulto and his company, Vulto Creamery, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges related to a listeria outbreak in 2016-2017 that resulted in eight hospitalizations and two deaths.

The guilty plea was for causing the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce between December 2014 and March 2017. Vulto Creamery’s soft raw cheese was identified as the source of the listeria outbreak, leading to a nationwide recall of the company’s raw milk cheeses.

The investigation found that workers at the creamery did not follow proper hygiene practices, such as washing their arms before handling cheese curds.

Cheese (Credits: CBS News)

One employee with multiple cuts and abrasions on his arms was found to be involved in stirring and breaking up cheese curds. Swabs of the creamery repeatedly tested positive for the bacteria over three years.

U.S. Attorney Carla B. Freedman for the Northern District of New York emphasized that the investigation and prosecution aimed to hold accountable the defendant and his business for causing illness and death through unsafe practices.

A federal court shut down the creamery in 2017 and barred Vulto and its owner from making or distributing food in the future. A magistrate judge in Syracuse, New York, will set the sentencing date for Vulto and Vulto Creamery.

Meanwhile, federal investigators are investigating another listeria outbreak linked to cheese and dairy products sold by Rizo-López Foods, based in Modesto, California. This ongoing outbreak has affected at least 26 people in 11 states, with 23 hospitalized and two deaths reported.