Florida man gets 15 months for selling South American cheese products tainted with listeria

MIAMI — A Florida man was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison after he sold more than 100 cases of South American cheese that he knew to be tainted with listeria, officials said.

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Christian Rivas, the owner of Miami-based Oasis Brands Inc., was sentenced Tuesday in federal court.

According to court documents, Oasis distributed cheese products made with ingredients imported from Nicaragua and Colombia.

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Officials in Virginia took a sample of Oasis’ “Lacteos Santa Martha Quesito Casero Fresh Curd” in 2014 and found that it was contaminated with listeria.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducted an inspection of Oasis' Miami facility and reported finding more products contaminated with listeria and numerous unsanitary conditions, court documents said.

Inspectors reported finding black mold on the ceiling and a door frame and condensation dripping onto raw cheese-making materials, cheese in production and the finished product.

Rivas agreed to recall the cheese and stop production until the sanitary issues were fixed, court documents said.

He also told FDA inspectors that Oasis would not ship out any finished product that it had in its inventory, officials said.

During a follow-up inspection six weeks later, FDA officials found that Rivas had shipped 133 cases of contaminated cheese which they believe sickened several people, investigators said.

Rivas pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the case.