Quong Hop & Co., a San-Francisco-based maker of the Soy Deli, Soy Fresh and Raquel's brands of tofu and hummus, has been reprimanded yet again by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for failing to appropriately sanitize its manufacturing facility. The tofu and hummus maker was warned that it must clean up its act or prepare to be permanently shut down after further contamination was discovered.
Quong Hop allowed mold to take hold of ceilings and walls in its processing rooms, according to the warning letter sent by the FDA. The metal pipes used to transfer hummus from the mixer were also encrusted with dried food, and employees routinely used rusty equipment and utensils, which they merely rinsed but did not properly wash and sanitize later.
The investigators also found that employees did not change their garments between processing food and sanitizing tasks, ate food while it was being prepared directly from the mixing utensils, and sampled portions of ready-to-eat salads with their hands while making the salads.
An analysis of samples collected during the inspection showed Quong Hop's facility was contaminated with Listeria Monocytogenes, a pathogenic bacterium that can cause a severe, sometimes life-threatening illness called invasive listeriosis.
"We're currently out of business and aren't producing," Quong Hop's president, James Stephens, told Consumer Ally. He declined further comment.
The finding follows a recall earlier this summer of the company's Raquel's line of hummus after sampling by California authorities detected Listeria at the plant.
Despite repeated warnings by the FDA since 2006 and multiple assurances by Quong Hop that it had scrubbed down and sanitized all walls, ceilings, fans, and equipment, mold growth and poor hygienic habits among employees are an ongoing problem, states the agency in its letter.
In addition to violating federal Good Manufacturing Practice regulations, the company mislabeled its hummus, omitting the presence of soybean oil, the FDA said. Instead, the product label declares "olive oil," although olive oil is not used in the product.
The FDA letter is part of an ongoing effort to better police the nation's food supply chain. The regulatory body has been criticized for not monitoring food suppliers and distributors more vigorously, and for not taking a more proactive approach to overall food safety.
Following a spate of recent food recalls, including deadly E.coli spinach, tainted peanut butter, and salmonella-contaminated eggs, a joint report by the National Research Council and the Institutes of Medicine highlighted needed improvements in food safety and recommended that the the FDA shift from a reactive to a risk-based approach.
The report notes the FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of nearly 80% of the nation's food supply, including more than 150,000 food facilities, more than 1 million restaurants, and more than 2 million farms.
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