U.S. Marshals, acting under a court order sought by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, today seized packaged food products from a rodent-infested warehouse in Athens, Ga. A variety of products, including crackers, cookies and potato chips, were intended for sale to jails and prisons throughout the southeastern United States.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia issued a warrant for the seizure of all of the food in the warehouse from Mid-States Services Inc., that the FDA and the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) determined to be susceptible to contamination by rodents. The food was valued at $859,000.
The government’s complaint alleges that the products are adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because they have been held under insanitary conditions, whereby they may have become contaminated with filth.
The two agencies investigated the Mid-States Services facility from July 14 through July 21, 2010, and found “widespread active rodent infestation both inside and outside the facility” according to the government’s complaint. Investigators found 14 live rodents, seven dead rodents, 23 gnaw holes on multiple food containers, multiple containers of food containing rodent pellets, four rodent nests, and apparent rodent pellets too numerous to count, on and around food packages, as well as finding structural defects making the facilities accessible to rodents.
“This is an example of quick action by the FDA and our state partner to prevent contaminated food from reaching consumers,” said Michael A. Chappell, acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “The FDA took this action because the company failed to provide adequate safeguards to ensure that products they produce or hold for sale remain free of contamination.”
On July 15, 2010, GDA placed all food in the warehouse under a stop sale order. Four days later, the firm voluntarily destroyed some of the food but, as alleged in the complaint, a significant amount of food was not destroyed. On July 21, 2010, FDA investigators provided the warehouse manager a list of inspection observations documenting the violations, but the company did not formally respond.
“As soon as we heard about this unlicensed warehouse and the conditions under which food was held, we took action with FDA,” said Tommy Irvin, Georgia commissioner of agriculture. “We used our authority under the Georgia Food Act to immediately stop the sale and movement of food from the warehouse. We also promptly alerted the facilities in Georgia that had received food from this warehouse.”