Today, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried issued an Immediate Final Order to Penn Dutch Meat & Seafood Market, ordering that they immediately cease operations and close their Margate store. The order was issued after Penn Dutch violated multiple stop-use and stop-sale orders and endangered public health by possibly distributing food products contaminated with Listeria pathogens.

“As with any Department inspection process, Penn Dutch was provided an opportunity to remedy the situation by disposing of possibly dangerous contaminated products and sanitizing tools and workspaces. It’s unfortunate that Penn Dutch chose to disregard our directives and endanger public safety,” stated Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Moving equipment, products, and people in and out of the Listeria monocytogenes positive areas increases the potential for the spread of pathogens, and exposes Penn Dutch’s customers and employees to a pathogenic bacteria capable of creating a serious health risk. As the state’s consumer watchdog, our Department takes potential foodborne illness extremely seriously, and the Listeria bacteria has a 20 percent mortality rate.”

Background: Since February 2019, the Department has confirmed multiple samples of Listeria monocytogenes at both Penn Dutch locations in Margate and Hollywood, Florida. After previous inspections identified the bacteria’s presence, Penn Dutch remedied the issues and resumed operations. On September 9, 2019 the Department’s Division of Food Safety collected 110 environmental samples in various areas of Penn Dutch’s Margate store. On September 16, 2019, our Department’s food laboratory found that 13 of the samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

Positive Sample Locations: The positive Listeria samples were from the following areas in the Margate store: deli area; deli slicing room; special cuts room; seafood display; seafood cutting area; ready cooler; tray wash hallway; chicken production room; and future room. This includes cutting boards, seafood display trays, and slicers.

Re-Inspection & Violations: Following the confirmation of positive samples, Department inspectors conducted a follow-up inspection at the Margate store on the same day and issued a “Re-Inspection Required” summary citing a violation of Section 500.10(1)(f), Florida Statutes, relating to food that: “has been produced, prepared, packed, transported, or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may become contaminated with filth, or whereby it may have been rendered diseased, unwholesome, or injurious to health;” as evidenced by environmental samples found positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

September 18 Inspection: Stop Use Orders were issued for 15 areas and or items/equipment that were found to and could have potentially come into contact with Listeria monocytogenes. On September 18, the Department conducted a Focused Visit at the Margate store to check on the issued Stop Use Orders and observed that many had been violated. Department staff alerted the Margate store personnel that the Stop Use Orders remained in effect. On the same day, Penn Dutch announced to the public, via its Facebook page that, “Until Further Notice our Margate Location will be open every day from 9 am – 5 pm.”

Determination: The Department’s Director of the Division of Food Safety, Dr. Matthew Curran, has determined that the continued operation of Penn Dutch’s Margate store presents an immediate danger to public health, safety, and welfare.

“When Listeria monocytogenes is found in a region or area of a facility, it’s general practice to sequester the entire region or area where it was found, as there are no barriers to prevent its migration within that region or area. This could be a cooler, freezer, or room where Listeria monocytogenes was discovered,” said Dr. Matthew Curran. “If Listeria monocytogenes is present in a room, it’s nearly impossible to sample every square inch and identify all of the locations the pathogens could have spread to — pathogens are living organisms and are transferrable and mobile. To be safe and protect public health, it is necessary and reasonable to quarantine every possible location pathogens are likely to be present.”

Listeria:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $650 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as deli meat, cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.

If you or a family member became ill with a Listeria infection after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Listeria attorneys for a free case evaluation.