Widow names raw milk creamery linked to listeria outbreak in wrongful death lawsuit

The widow of a Vermont man who died from a listeria-related stroke has named a New York-based raw milk creamery in a wrongful death lawsuit.  Veronica Friedman, whose late husband, Richard Friedman, died on Nov. 2, said her family purchased the contaminated cheese manufactured by Vulto Creamery in early October, Food Safety News reported.

Friedman said her husband went to the emergency room at Brattleboro Hospital on Oct. 11 after he began experiencing serious symptoms of listeriosis. He was transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center on Oct. 12 before landing at Mt. Ascutney Rehab in Windsor about a week later, Food Safety News reported. At Mt. Ascutney he suffered a massive stroke and was airlifted back to Dartmouth Hitchcock, where he died, the news outlet reported.

Hitchcock is one of two fatal cases in a multi-state listeria outbreak that has been traced to a soft raw milk cheese made by Vulto Creamery. The Walton, New York-based company issued a recall on March 7 for all lots of Ouleout, Mirand, Heinennellie and Willowemec soft wash-rind raw milk cheeses after two samples tested positive for listeria.

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“People think of food poisoning as inconvenient rather than really dangerous,” William Marler, Friedman’s attorney, told Food Safety News. “But the reality is that what you eat can seriously damage or kill you. Food providers have a responsibility to protect the lives of their customers, especially when producing raw milk products, which pose a higher risk to consumers.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched an investigation into the outbreak, with other state health officials taking similar measures. On March 9 officials confirmed the creamery’s Ouleout cheese as the source of the outbreak, Food Safety News reported. Whole Foods has announced a recall of Vulto Creamery Ouleout and Miranda cheeses from nine of its stores across Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Maine.

While the first illness was reported Sept. 1, 2016, the FDA did not begin investigating until Jan. 31, a week after the sixth case was discovered. According to the CDC, the six victims are scattered across Connecticut, Florida, New York and Vermont.

The CDC recommends consumers do not eat, restaurants do not serve and retailers do not sell recalled cheeses made by Vulto Creamery. Symptoms of listeria can include chills, severe headache and potential death.