FDA: Factory Totally Infested By Rodents
Described by a federal prosecutor as a “picnic ground for rodents,” a Ridgewood food factory was raided by agents last Friday, Apr. 12, with $1 million in products seized due to a host of stomach-churning violations found previously by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors, it was reported.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York stated the seizure occurred at V.I.P. Foods facility located at 1080 Wyckoff Ave., a Kosher manufacturer, warehouse and repacker of food products such as muffin and pancake mixes, soup bases and flavored instant mashed potatoes. The company distributes products under the labels of V.I.P. Foods and KoJel.
Federal law enforcement sources said the seizure was requested by U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch and approved by U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis after FDA inspectors, while visiting the plant last fall, found the premises to be infested with rodents-some of which had eaten their way into food containers or nested within pallets of products.
According to information provided by the U.S. Attorney’s office, FDA inspectors conducted routine inspections at V.I.P. Foods’ Wyckoff Avenue warehouse between Oct. 22 and Nov. 9, 2012. The two story building consists of a large warehouse and 10 packaging and manu- facturing rooms.
Throughout the entire premises, law enforcement sources said, inspectors found evidence of rodent infestation, including at least seven live and dead rodents and droppings “too numerous to count.” There were reportedly many “rodent-gnawed containers” of flour, bread crumbs and potato flakes.
In a few instances, authorities noted, inspectors found live rodents inside of the containers themselves.
Rodent nests were also found within pallets of food and packaging materials, and rodent urine stains were observed “on and around food product and packaging,” according to the civil complaint filed by the government against V.I.P. Foods.
Inspectors reportedly also determined that the facility contained many breaches which allowed various rodents and insects easy access into the site. Live and dead bugs were also found around the facility and in some food packages and containers, the complaint noted.
V.I.P. Foods was assessed a $600 civil monetary penalty following the October 2012 visit by inspectors. Subsequent inspections by the FDA in November 2012 and February of this year reportedly found that the violations were not corrected.
The civil suit filed by the federal government seeks the forfeiture and subsequent destruction of the seized products, as they are considered to be unsanitary and unfit for public consumption. Moreover, the government is also seeking financial penalties against V.I.P. Foods as well as reimbursement for law enforcement efforts.
“V.I.P.’s warehouse was a picnic ground for rodents and the company failed utterly in its obligations to provide food deemed safe for human consumption,” said Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York last Friday, Apr. 12. “those who store, package and sell the food we serve our families have a responsibility to maintain basic standards of cleanliness in their facilities.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie D. Hendry is representing the government in its civil suit.