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The UGH Factor in Food Processing & Manufacturing

Touch the Soil News #826 (Feature photo courtesy of FDA)

One’s imagination can take over when contemplating things that can go wrong in the tens of thousands of food processing and manufacturing facilities around the nation.

Following up on that path of thinking, the Office of Inspector General – from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – took up an investigation. The investigation was over how the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) handled significant food violations when discovered while doing an inspection. One wonders, what might slip through the cracks and not discovered at all.

The Office of Inspector General just released a 39 page report on what they found:

  1. The FDA often took no action in response to significant inspection violations.
  2. The FDA took no advisory or enforcement action in response to 22 percent of the significant inspection violations from 2011 to 2015.
  3. If FDA takes no action in such cases, the facilities in violation may not correct the violations. This undermines the FDA’s efforts to ensure that the food supply is safe.
  4. When FDA did take action, it most commonly relied on facilities to voluntarily correct significant inspection violations. These actions were not always timely nor did they always result in the correction of violations.

 

The report, besides highlighting the shortfall of the FDA to ensure food safety, sheds light on how food processors and manufacturers are not self-policing. How much trust are we giving to food manufacturers and processors? The Office of Inspector General used the following examples to make their point:

 

  1. FDA found unsanitary conditions in a New Mexico facility that manufactures chili peppers and spices. FDA investigators took environmental samples at the facility and 21 samples came back positive for Salmonella. This strain of Salmonella found as identical to the strain discovered at the plant during a previous inspection.
  2. FDA found unsanitary conditions inside a tofu manufacturing facility in Washington. Live birds and insects were found in the production area, there was mishandling of fresh tofu and evidence of both live and dead rodents in the packaging room. In addition, there was a long list of labeling errors.
  3. FDA found unsanitary conditions inside a cheese processing plant in Kentucky. There were live and dead pests throughout the facility and an employee stirring cheese curds with bare hands. Environmental samples were taken and 29 samples came back positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

Following is a video from a year ago regarding an FDA inspection of Whole Foods.

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