U.S. marshals seize ‘infested’ food

August 31st, 2011

U.S. marshals seize ‘infested’ food

Tuesday, August 30, 2011
(Updated 5:20 am)

By The Herald-Sun of DurhamDURHAM (MCT) — U.S. marshals have seized food from a Durham warehouse that supplies Chinese, Mexican and Indian food to restaurants.

The marshals descended on Chan’s Food Service after an inspection by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration indicated that the supplier’s warehouse was contaminated with rodents and pests. Marshals seized “all FDA-regulated food susceptible to rodent and pest contamination or other filth held” at the 222 N. Hoover Road storage facility.

FDA public affairs officer Pat El-Hinnawy said the Durham warehouse seizure is one of just “three or four” food seizures by U.S. marshals in the United States in the past year. Others also involved rodent-infested food in warehouses in George and New Mexico.

She said the FDA’s regulatory authority applies only to food held for interstate commerce; otherwise, individual states investigate.

El-Hinnawy said she wasn’t sure what led inspectors to the warehouse in Durham, but that the inspection could have been part of a routine inspection, or it could have been triggered by a tip or a state inspection in which it was learned that the food was being sold out of state.

An FDA inspection from July 25 through Aug. 3 found “evidence of an active and widespread rodent infestation” at the warehouse, according to the FDA.

FDA investigators reported seeing rodent nesting sites, “numerous rodent excreta pellets on and around food products,” rodent-gnawed containers of food and one live and eight dead rodents “in the vicinity of food product storage.”

The FDA said investigators also saw “food product spills, open boxes of food, rotten food items, trash throughout the facility, and noted many potential entryways for pests, including open doors, gaps in doors, broken windows and a hole in the outside wall.”

Anthony Chan, who manages the business, said Monday that the investigation is “still ongoing” and he’s working with the FDA in the matter. He wouldn’t say which businesses he supplies, and declined further comment.

On Friday, however, a woman who answered the phone at the warehouse said the business supplies Chinese, Mexican and Indian food to restaurants, but would not elaborate.

The food was seized under a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

According to the government’s complaint, the food is adulterated under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, because it has been held under unsanitary conditions “whereby they may have become contaminated by filth.”

The seizure was made at the FDA’s request.

“The FDA remains vigilant in protecting consumers from unacceptable sources of food,” Dara A. Corrigan, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in a press release. “1/8Our3/8 action reinforces that commitment. And we will continue to take actions against companies that do not meet federal standards for food safety, wholesomeness, sanitation and proper labeling.”

The FDA is responsible for overseeing more than $2 trillion worth of food, drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, dietary supplements, tobacco and consumer good each year.

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