A federal court judge has barred local cheese maker Estrella Creamery of Montesano in Grays Harbor County from selling its products outside of Washington.
Last week Federal District Court Judge Benjamin Settle signed the order barring Estrella Creamery from interstate sales. It also authorized the FDA to inspect the facility in the future to insure the company is in compliance.
Pete Kennedy is a lawyer with the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, the group representing the Estrellas. He says the Estrellas want to get back into the cheese business, but they should be operating under rules set by the state, not the FDA.
“The Estrellas are getting their ingredients from within the state of Washington and they’re also selling the finished product only within the state of Washington," said Kennedy. "So this is really an operation the FDA should not have jurisdiction over.”
The troubles began for the Estrella Family Creamery more than two years ago. That’s when state inspectors found listeria in the creamery’s production areas. There were no illnesses reported or linked to the cheese. The owners destroyed all contaminated cheese and closed the facility to fix the problem.
A few months later the FDA conducted its own inspection and found more bacteria. The agency requested that Estrella recall all of its products. The company refused. In October 2010, the US Marshall seized all of Estrella’s cheese products.
Under the court order, the Estrellas must pay the government costs and fees related to the seizure.