On October 6, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. recalled cuajada en hoja (fresh curd) after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration isolated Listeria monocytogenes from environmental samples collected from the production facility.
Whole-genome sequences of the Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from recalled quesito casero cheese produced by Oasis Brands, Inc. were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from one person who became ill in September 2013 and four persons who became ill during June through October 2014.
These five ill persons were reported from four states: Georgia (1), New York (1), Tennessee (2), and Texas (1).
Four of the five ill persons were hospitalized. One death was reported in Tennessee. Three illnesses were related to a pregnancy – one of these was diagnosed in a newborn.
All ill persons were reported to be of Hispanic ethnicity and reported consuming Hispanic-style soft cheese. Two persons who were able to answer questions about specific varieties of Hispanic-style soft cheeses reported consuming quesito casero, though neither could remember the brand.
According to Andrea Torres of ABC Channel 10, after making promises to the feds, Christian Rivas knew he was distributing cheese with listeria and did so anyway.
Rivas was in federal prison Nov. 11, 2016 and faced 15 moths in prison after federal prosecutors armed with the results of CDC tests and FDA inspections were ready to show consumers were “fraudulently led to believe” the cheese was safe to eat when it wasn’t.
Before the criminal case, authorities recalled 15 of their “Lacteos Santa Martha ” products targeting Central American migrants in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. The list included the “Queso Seco Olanchano,” the “Queso Seco Hondureno,” the “Queso Cuzcatlan,” and the “Crema Guatemalteca.”
Rivas plead guilty to charges that he acted with an “intent to defraud and mislead, delivered cheese processed and packed at the Oasis facility into interstate commerce that was adulterated,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola sentenced Rivas to 15 months in prison.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Justin Green, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI), Miami Field Office, announced the sentencing.
“We will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who put the public’s health at risk by allowing contaminated foods to enter the U.S. marketplace,” Green said.