Food defense includes protecting food products from intentional contamination or adulteration, while food safety alludes to accidental contamination. Either one can destroy brand integrity. That’s the issue for Valley Milk Products LLC of Strasburg, Va., after the U.S. Marshals Service seized more than four million pounds of product from the company, which is owned by the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association Inc. in Reston, Va. The seized products include dry nonfat milk powder and buttermilk powder packaged in 40- and 50-pound bags for further manufacturing and are worth nearly $4 million.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed the complaint on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration, alleging the seized products are adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. During an FDA inspection of Valley Milk from July-September 2016, FDA investigators observed poor sanitary practices and reviewed the company’s records, which showed positive results for Salmonella in the plant’s internal environmental and finished product samples. The presence of Salmonella meleagridis was confirmed on surfaces that came into contact with food after being pasteurized.

FDA urged Valley Milk to conduct a voluntary recall of the milk powder, but Valley Milk refused. FDA intervened to prevent the contaminated milk powder from reaching consumers. The FDA used a bacterial typing tool called whole genome sequencing (WGS) to link the samples collected in the facility over time. The sampling results indicate the Salmonella strains from 2016 are nearly identical to Salmonella strains found at the company in 2010, 2011 and 2013. No illnesses linked to Valley Milk products have been reported to date. READ MORE