Richard Friedman, age 73, of Putney, Vt. purchased raw milk cheese manufactured by Vulto Creamery of Walton, N.Y. last October. On Nov. 2, he died after suffering a massive stroke caused by the Listeriosis infection. The cheese was contaminated with Listeria.
Six people from four states, (Connecticut, Florida, New York and Vermont) have been sickened by the tainted cheese. Another person, in addition to Friedman, has died.
Last month, Friedman’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Vulto Creamery in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. The lawsuit alleges that Vulto Creamery is at fault for producing a product that was “defective and unreasonably dangerous” and for not properly training or supervising its employees.
The lawyer for Friedman’s widow pointed out that, “People think of food poisoning as inconvenient rather than really dangerous. The reality is that what you eat can seriously damage or even 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.”
Food in this country is safe, compared to that of other nations, particularly the third world. We do not have citizens dying in the streets from bad food. That does not mean a consumer should throw caution to the wind.
Raw milk is trendy now, and provided all laws are followed, it can be consumed. Just because it is legal, however, does not necessarily make it a sound choice for everyone, particularly the elderly, newborns, pregnant women, or anyone with a weakened immune system.
Listeriosis is caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Pasteurization kills this bacteria, so pasteurized cheese is a safer choice. Vulto Creamery has voluntarily recalled all of their cheeses at this point, even though the Ouleout cheese (pronounced OH-lee-out) has been determined the culprit by the Center for Disease Control.
Vulto Creamery opened in 2012 in Walton, N.Y., a small town in the western Catskills of New York. Prior to that, Jos Vulto, originally from the Netherlands, began making and aging cheese in his Brooklyn apartment. He was an artist in the metal working medium by training. The website for Vulto Creamery indicates that all of their products are raw milk cheeses that are handcrafted in Walton.
Even if Friedman’s widow prevails, she has still lost her husband. No financial award will ever make that right. I’m also assuming that Vulto Creamery has an insurance policy that will indemnify the business. All of the insurance policies in the world will not restore Vulto Creamery’s image. This is just a sad situation for both parties.
I’m often confused by the throwback mindset involving food production in this country. The same consumer that demands state of the art medical care and has the latest smart phone and online streaming service would prefer that the American farmer imitate the Amish instead of similarly embracing technology. Louis Pasteur developed pasteurization for a reason, and we are aware of what the process does to make food safer. Yet the consumer will go to great lengths to demand and consume raw milk, knowing full well that listeriosis is a possibility. Why?
Are we trying to recapture the good old days? My grandmother had a strong opinion about that mindset. She used to tell me, I was alive back then and those good old days weren’t so good.
I’m all for the consumer having choices. I would just prefer they made educated decisions.