Virginia company ordered to stop sprout sales after food safety violations
A Virginia grower of fresh, ready-to-eat soybean and mung-bean sprouts that has been involved in multiple recalls stretching back to 2012 has been ordered to stop production until the company can clean up its act.
On Thursday, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia entered a consent decree of permanent injunction between the United States and Henry’s Farm, Inc. and its owner after FDA identified multiple violations of federal food safety laws and regulations. The consent decree prohibits Henry’s Farm from receiving, processing, manufacturing, preparing, packing, holding and distributing ready-to-eat soybean and mung-bean sprouts.
Sprout samples collected during an investigation conducted by FDA and Virginia officials tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono). Investigators also documented insanitary conditions at the facility, including a persistent rodent infestation and dirty food processing equipment, according to FDA.
Under the consent decree, the company cannot process or distribute food until they demonstrate that its facility and processing equipment are suitable to prevent contamination in the food that it processes, prepares, stores and handles. Henry’s Farm, Inc. must, among other things, retain an independent laboratory to collect and analyze samples for the presence of L. mono, retain an independent sanitation expert and develop a program to control L. mono and to eliminate unsanitary conditions at its facility. Once the company is permitted to resume operations, FDA may still compel the company to take further action if the agency discovers future violations.
“Insanitary conditions at food processing facilities can pose well-known risks to consumers, but such risks can be effectively mitigated if companies handling food take proper precautions,” says Benjamin Mizer, principal deputy assistant attorney, head of the DOJ’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to work aggressively with the FDA to combat and deter conduct that leads to the distribution of adulterated food to consumers.”
No illnesses related to the consumption of Henry’s Farm products have been reported.