Lawsuit Filed Against Sandwich Maker by FDA Over Unsanitary Conditions

Federal regulators filed a lawsuit this week seeking to permanently shut down a company that makes ready-to-eat sandwiches sold at stores in Nevada and California, after documenting a history of unsanitary manufacturing conditions and the shipment of sandwiches contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

At the request of the FDA, the U.S. Department of Justice filed for a permanent injunction against Rel’s Foods Inc. this week in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. The complaint seeks to prevent the company from manufacturing, producing, and selling adulterated food products.

The injunction comes after complaints from FDA regulators that they have consistently found Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) contamination in Rel’s ready-to-eat sandwiches and in their Oakland, Ca. production facility since 2002. L. mono contamination can cause listeriosis, a form of food poisoning that can be dangerous and sometimes fatal to young children, the elderly and to people with compromised immune systems. Listeriosis can also cause pregnant women to miscarry or have stillbirths.

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There have been no reported illnesses in connection with Rel’s products, according to an FDA statement released this week. However, the facility has been cited numerous times, and both inspectors from the FDA and from the California Department of Public Health, Food and Drug Branch (CFDB), have found L. mono in the processing plant and sandwiches on multiple occasions during routine testing. Additionally, both agencies have found that the company has repeatedly violated current Good Manufacturing Practices for food.

Rel’s Food Inc. has distributed frozen foods and ready-to-eat sandwiches to convenience stores, deli’s, liquor stores, and gas stations in Nevada and California since 1956. The vice president, Peder Scott Sorensen, and two managers, Patrick O’Malley and Timothy E. Ault, were named in the complaint.

Food poisoning symptoms associated with listeriosis can include high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. The FDA recommends that anyone who has eaten Rel’s products and experienced symptoms of listeriosis should contact their health care professional.

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