Federal health officials have issued a warning to Whole Foods, after an inspection found dozens of sanitary violations at a food processing center, including the discovery of bacteria that may cause listeria food poisoning.
The FDA issued a warning letter to Whole Foods Markets Inc. on June 8, demanding the company correct dozens of violations at its facility in Everett, Massachusetts. The violations were discovered during an inspection in February.
According to the letter, the FDA’s five-day inspection found serious violations for manufacturing, packing, and holding human food under insanitary conditions, which may have caused the food to become contaminated with filth or become injurious to human health.
Inspectors reported several instances where the company failed to properly store and package bulk food items, potentially allowing the growth of microorganisms and foodborne bacteria. During the tour, inspectors swabbed several areas to test for contamination and discovered the presence of Listeria welshimeri on a swab collected from a vegetable rotating drum.
Several violations noted in the warning letter indicated ready-to-eat pesto pasta, ready-to-eat mushroom quesadillas, raw vegetable, beets, chives, couscous and barrels of ready-to-eat egg salad all being prepared or transported under dripping water resulting from condensation on the ceiling. Inspectors state that the drips were observed entering the food products at a rate of up to one drip per second.
Federal officials report that not only did the hand washing stations not provide hot enough water to kill bacteria, but there were no splash guards on the stations. Inspectors observed the water being used to clean employee’s soiled hands splashing onto nearby uncovered ready to eat vegetables, utensils and food containers.
Other violations included employees handling food without gloves or washing their hands, failing to prevent food from contacting surfaces with chemicals, and exceeding the maximum level of Peracetic Acid from faucets in the vegetable preparation room.
The facility inspected by the FDA processes many different food items that are distributed throughout the nation to Whole Foods Markets, creating the potential for a widespread bacteria outbreak stemming from the unsanitary practices.
The FDA’s warning letter demands the company fix the sanitary violations identified in the inspection and provide evidence of the corrections and preventative policies to avoid further similar violations.
The agency is demanding that the company include step by step corrections and must explain in detail in corrections cannot be performed within the 15 days’ notice. Failure to provide notice to the FDA within 15 days of receipt could result in disciplinary action, including civil and criminal penalties such as fines, seizure, and/or court ordered injunctions.
Whole Foods Markets Inc. is the eighth largest food and drug store in the United States and owns and operates 430 stores in the U.S., 11 stores in Canada and another 9 in the UK. According to Whole Foods Markets recent financial release, the company produced over $15 billion in sales during the 2015 fiscal year.