MARGATE, Fla. – State authorities ordered Penn Dutch Meat & Seafood Market to shut down the Margate location immediately on Thursday afternoon, after accusing the market's administrators of putting the public's lives at risk with a bacterial contamination.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Commissioner Nicole Fried issued the final order accusing the market at 3201 N. State Road 7 of violating several stop-use and stop-sale orders, after inspectors found Listeria monocytogenes contamination in 15 areas.
"It's unfortunate that Penn Dutch chose to disregard our directives and endanger public safety," Fried said. "Moving equipment, products and people in and out of the listeria positive areas increases the potential for the spread of pathogens."
Fried accused the market of endangering public health by "possibly" distributing food products contaminated with the food-born bacteria, which can cause fatal infections to people with weakened immune systems.
Listeria bacteria causes Listeriosis, a serious infection with a 20 percent mortality rate. While healthy consumers may suffer short-term symptoms such as fever, headache, abdominal pain and diarrhea, a listeria infection can cause pregnant women to experience miscarriages and stillbirths.
Dr. Matthew Curran, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services director of the division of food safety said it is general practice to sequester the areas where listeria is found, as there are no barriers to prevent its migration.
"Pathogens are living organisms and are transferrable and mobile," Curran said. "To be safe and protect public health, it is necessary and reasonable to quarantine every possible location pathogens are likely to be present."
If consumers have any suspicions that the food they purchased at Penn Dutch could be contaminated, authorities said they should discard it, sanitize any areas which the food or container came into contact with.
February 2019: Authorities confirmed multiple samples of listeria at both Penn Dutch locations in Margate and Hollywood.
Sept. 9, 2019: Investigators collected 110 environmental samples in various areas of Penn Dutch's Margate store.
Sept. 16, 2019: Investigators found that 13 of the samples tested positive for listeria. The samples were from the deli area, the deli slicing room, the special cuts room, the seafood display, the seafood cutting area, the ready cooler, the tray wash hallway, the chicken production room and the future room. It included cutting boards, seafood display trays and slicers.
Sept. 18, 2019: Authorities issued stop use orders for 15 areas at risk for listeria. Despite the orders, Penn Dutch administrators used Facebook to announce that "Until Further Notice our Margate Location will be open every day from 9 am – 5 pm."