Food poisoning fear leads FDA to sue over Chung's shrimp egg rolls

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FDA tries to halt sale of Chung's egg rollsChung's, an egg roll maker whose goods are sold in supermarket freezer cases from coast to coast, should be prevented from selling its shrimp egg rolls because they can make people sick, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

The government is seeking a permanent injunction in U.S. District Court in Houston banning the sale of Chung's shrimp egg rolls after finding listeria in the company's plant and noting the egg rolls are made "under insanitary conditions, whereby they may have become contaminated with filth." The company was officially warned in 2007 about the problems. And a further inspection in 2009 found similar problems, the FDA said.

It is unusual for the government to have to resort to getting a court order to stop a company accused of refusing to fix a problem. While this sort of litigation does happen on occasion, the FDA tends to give a good amount of time (as evidenced from the 2007 warning) and guidance to allay food safety concerns. The action is necessary because the FDA does not have the authority to recall a product or remove it from the marketplace and instead must assert a law violation in court.

"The agency has previously warned the company that corrective actions need to be taken in this facility," Michael Chappell, the FDA's acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in a written statement. "This FDA action is aimed at protecting the public health."

The FDA raised concern that the egg rolls are susceptible to botulism, a dangerous form of food poisoning. The FDA, which observed air-conditioning condensation dripping onto the production line and people handling cleaning buckets moving the food without washing their hands in-between, offered several ways the company could avoid further problems. But the letter to the company in 2007 indicated Chung's disputed the FDA's findings.

"We are disappointed and puzzled that our concerted and repeated attempts to work with the FDA to resolve disagreements stemming from a July 2009 inspection have ended in a lawsuit," Chung's president, Charlie Kujawa, said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle. "We work hard every day to prepare a safe, top quality product."

Only the shrimp egg rolls are subject to the legal action taken by the FDA.

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