The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia entered a consent decree of condemnation and permanent injunction against Valley Milk Products LLC on March 15, 2017. The decree orders the condemnation of seized milk powder products and prevents its distribution.
The seizure action was filed in the Western District of Virginia on November 18, 2016 at the request of the FDA. The complaint alleged that milk powder products were manufactured under insanitary conditions “whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, and/or whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health. That complaint sought to seize and condemn certain adulterated milk powder products at Valley Milk Products’ Strasburg, Virginia facility.”
Valley Milk Products nonfat dry milk powder and sweet cream buttermilk powder products may have been contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Valley Milk recalled their products on December 9, 2016. Then, a slew of more than two dozen secondary recalls were issued, for products that were made with the milk powder. Valley Milk Products LLC makes Grade A and non-Grade A milk products including milk powder products, condensed milk products, and butter. No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with the consumption of these products.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division said in a statement, “the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act is designed to bolster public confidence in food safety by protecting consumers from unsafe food, including food produced under visibly insanitary conditions. The Department of Justice will continue to work cooperatively with the FDA to ensure that food facilities employ proper precautions, so that our food is safe for consumption.”
In the complaint, the FDA confirmed the presence of Salmonella meleagridis in the Strasburg, Virginia facility during a 2016 inspection. These bacterial strains were nearly identical to the Salmonella strains found at the firm in 2010, 2011, and 2013. Inspectors alleged that Salmonella meleagridis was also present in the firm’s undistributed finished product samples.
And the complaint alleged that the milk processing facility had insanitary conditions, including “dripping brown fluids and old product residue within the processing equipment. The complaint alleges that this evidence demonstrates that the firm’s sanitation practices were inadequate to control or eliminate Salmonella meleagridis in their processing environment.”
The defendants have agreed to be bound by a permanent injunction that stops them from resuming the manufacture of milk powder products without implementing effective corrective action. The seized milk powder products were condemned and forfeited to the U.S. Valley Milk can attempt to bring the condemned products into compliance with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act under FDA supervision. But Valley Milk cannot dispose of any part of the condemned food until FDA finds it has been safely reconditioned.
As part of the remedial provisions, the defendants must “establish and implement a written sanitation control program, which shall set out the details for sanitation control over the manufacturing and storage processes for the facilities used to receive, manufacture, prepare, pack, hold, or distribute milk powder products, and all food handling and storage equipment therein. This action does not affect Valley Milk’s liquid milk products.”