UPDATED: Adulterated Milk Products Seized by Food Regulators Due to Food Safety Violations
Valley Milk had refused to recall the products, which may have been contaminated with salmonella
The U.S. Marshals Service has seized more than four million pounds of adulterated milk products produced by Valley Milk.
The affected products include dry nonfat milk powder and buttermilk powder that is packaged in 40- and 50-pound bags intended for further manufacturing and worth almost $4 million.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed the complaint on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. District Court for the Virginia Western District. The department claimed that the products are adulterated under the terms of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
During an inspection of the company conducted by the FDA from July through September 2016, agency investigators observed poor sanitary practices at Valley Milk. They also reviewed company records showing positive test results for salmonella in both the internal environment of the plant as well as finished product samples. The investigators discovered residues on internal parts of processing equipment even after the company had cleaned it as well as water dripping onto food manufacturing equipment from the ceiling. Furthermore, environmental swabs taken while the inspection was being conducted confirmed that there was salmonella on surfaces that food contacted after being pasteurized.
"The FDA urged Valley Milk to conduct a voluntary recall of the implicated products," said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA's associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. "The firm refused to recall and, as a result, we have had to intervene and seize this adulterated food to prevent it from reaching consumers who could be exposed to Salmonella from these products."
A bacterial typing tool known as whole genome sequencing (WGS) was used to connect the samples taken from the facility over time. WGS technology can show relationships between isolates of bacterial pathogens in the environment, a food source, or a person who became ill as a result of ingesting contaminated food. The results of the sampling show that the salmonella strains from 2016 are almost identical to strains discovered at the company in 2010, 2011, and 2013, findings that indicate the presence of a persistent salmonella strain at this facility.
A pathogenic bacterium able to contaminate foods, salmonella can cause gastroenteritis and other serious clinical conditions including septicemia, arterial infections, endocarditis, and septic arthritis. Though most people recover from salmonellosis without treatment in four to seven days, but roughly one person in every thousand dies from the condition.
Valley Milk is not producing any dry powdered milk products at this time. There have been no illnesses connected to Valley Milk products reported to date.