F.D.A. Warns Whole Foods on Failure to Address Food Safety Problems
Uh-oh. Stephanie Strom reports in the NY Times:
The Food and Drug Administration this month sent a stern warning letter to Whole Foods Market, saying the upscale grocer had failed to address a long list of food safety issues the agency raised this year after an inspection at a plant in Massachusetts that makes prepared foods for its stores in the Northeast.
The inspections, which occurred in February at the company’s North Atlantic Kitchen in Everett, just outside Boston, found several incidents of foods exposed to dripping condensation; inadequacies and failure in hand washing practices; and soiled and improperly cleaned dishes and equipment, among other things. The company was alerted to the problems the F.D.A. found immediately after the inspection.
While the F.D.A.’s inspection did not find any pathogenic bacteria in the plant, one out of 100 swabs taken on surfaces that come into contact with food and other surfaces tested positive for nonpathogenic listeria.
“This finding demonstrates that conditions exist in and on your equipment that would support the presence and growth of Listeria monocytogenes” — a highly pathogenic version of the bacteria — “and indicates that your cleaning and sanitation practices may be inadequate,” the F.D.A. said in the warning letter, which is dated June 8.
Whole Foods said it had taken steps to correct the problems the agency found. “We’ve been in close contact with the F.D.A., opened our doors to inspectors regularly since February and worked with them to address every issue brought to our attention,” Ken Meyer, the company’s executive vice president of operations, said in a statement.
The company was given 15 business days to respond to the agency. The F.D.A. would not comment on potential steps it might take. But if Whole Foods cannot document the changes it has made to address the problems the agency identified, the agency will reinspect the operation. If that happens, it is likely Whole Foods will have to pay for the second inspection.
The F.D.A. said that the company’s response to its warning in February was not enough. The agency said the company had failed to provide photos, invoices, records of product destruction and other documentation that would demonstrate the necessary corrections. . .