District Court Enters Permanent Injunction Against Virginia-Based Sprout Producer and its Owner to Prevent Distribution of Adulterated Food
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia entered a consent decree of permanent injunction against Henry’s Farm Inc., of Woodford, Virginia, and its owner, Soo C. Park, to prevent the distribution of adulterated food, the Department of Justice announced today. Henry’s Farm manufactured and distributed a variety of soybean sprouts and repackaged and distributed mungbean sprouts.
The department filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), alleging that the company and its owner have a history of processing food products under insanitary conditions.
In conjunction with the filing of the complaint, the defendants agreed to settle the litigation and be bound by a consent decree of permanent injunction. Under the consent decree, defendants cannot process or distribute food until they report to FDA the actions they have taken to bring their operations into compliance with the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), including cleaning and sanitizing the facility and equipment therein, and FDA notifies the defendants that they appear to be in compliance with specific remedial actions set forth in the decree and the FDCA.
“Insanitary conditions at food processing facilities can pose well-known risks to consumers, but such risks can be effectively mitigated if companies handling food take proper precautions,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to work aggressively with the FDA to combat and deter conduct that leads to the distribution of adulterated food to consumers.”
“It’s the FDA’s responsibility to protect consumers from potentially harmful food entering the food supply,” said FDA’s Associate Commissioner Melinda K. Plaisier for regulatory affairs. “When a company continues to produce food that presents a risk for consumers, the FDA will take whatever steps necessary to protect public health.”
According to the complaint, in December 2014, FDA investigators inspected Henry’s Farm’s manufacturing facility at 5500 Fair Oaks Lane in Woodford and found numerous insanitary conditions, including: standing water in the sprout production room; sprout debris at various places along the packaging line and floor; three dead insects and a live spider on packing material in the processing room and three dead insects in the seed storage area.
As alleged in the complaint, FDA investigators discovered the presence of L. mono at the facility, including samples taken from food contact surfaces and a sample of finished sprout product collected in May 2012. L. mono is food-borne bacteria that can cause serious illness or even death in consumers. Eating food contaminated with L. mono poses the greatest risk to populations with impaired or weaker immune systems, including pregnant women, infants and the elderly.
According to the complaint, the FDA inspected Henry’s Farm’s facility three times before the December 2014 inspection — in June 2014, December 2013 and May 2012. As alleged in the complaint, in each prior inspection, FDA investigators found inadequate sanitation practices including: standing water in sprout production areas; sprout debris on food contact surfaces; failure to maintain cleaning logs; rodent activity in the sprout production area and failure to use any antimicrobial treatment to reduce the hazard of pathogens that may be present on seed for sprouting. As alleged in the complaint, FDA repeatedly warned defendants that further action could be taken if the insanitary conditions persisted.
The government is represented by Trial Attorney Arturo DeCastro of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, with the assistance of Associate Chief Counsel Tara Boland of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of General Counsel – Food and Drug Division.