Court rules Estrella can no longer sell cheese over state lines

A federal court ruling now permanently bars the Estrella Family Creamery from making and selling cheese outside the state, according to court filings in U.S. District Court.

Judge Benjamin H. Settle granted the government its request for a summary judgment in its case against the Montesano creamery, resulting in a permanent injunction against interstate commerce unless the company takes extensive steps to avoid Listeria monocytogenes. Its cheese was seized in 2010 because testing by the Food & Drug Administration and the state Department of Agriculture showed the presence of the pathogen in various products and facilities.

Estrella recalled a variety of cheeses in February and March 2010 following the test results, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice. However, Estrella refused the FDA’s request that it recall all cheese following the August 2010 tests which revealed the persistent presence of L. mono in the production space and aging rooms.

Pursuant to a warrant issued by Settle, the U.S. Marshal’s Service seized all of Estrella’s cheese products on Oct. 21, 2010.

Last week, Settle also ruled that the Estrellas would pay for the cost of seizing the contaminated cheese. He issued a condemnation order against the creamery because after the cheese was seized, the family fed the products to pigs on their farm. Costs to be paid have not yet been determined.

The judge also granted the government “unfettered access” to the Estrellas’ farm to ensure they’re complying with the injunction. The ruling grants greater access than generally allowed by law.

In order to resume interstate commerce, the creamery would need to take steps avoid contamination, including retaining an independent lab and sanitation expert at their own cost to examine their products and facilities. They would also have to implement various employee training programs and food handling policies. If the Estrellas sell or lease their business or dissolve, they must notify the FDA.