The tangy notes in your Whole Foods mushroom quesadilla might just be sludge that dripped in from the ceiling. The FDA has delivered a rather severe letter to the grocery chain demanding it address, ASAP, a long list of problems inspectors uncovered at a food-prep plant in Massachusetts. Among their documented health hazards are ready-to-eat foods stored (and even prepped) under a ceiling leaking condensation, dirty dishes piled up near food, drums of “unidentified” chemicals, employees packaging quinoa cakes without washing hands, as well as Listeria welshimeri just hangin’ out in the frankly very important sounding Veg Prep Room. The salad situation comes off as particularly iffy: An employee was observed spraying ammonium sanitizer in dangerous proximity to an open colander of salad, and another’s arms were apparently “frequently touching” the greens as they got boxed up.
“FDA has serious concerns that our investigators found your firm operating under these conditions,” the agency said in the letter, dated June 8. Whole Foods argues the FDA already complained about this litany of stuff in a February warning letter, so obviously the company didn’t just sit on its hands for four months. A rep tells The Wall Street Journal they’re actually surprised their “thorough and tangible steps” weren’t acknowledged in the June 8 letter. The FDA counters that while Whole Foods did promise to fix the problems back in March, officials aren’t convinced it has: Quoting from the FDA’s letter, it says the agency “has serious concerns” about compliance and tells Whole Foods it “do[es] not consider your response acceptable because you failed to provide documentation” — photos, invoices, work orders, or anything, really.
The Massachusetts facility supplies products to 74 stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey. Whole Foods already issued one recall in October for batches of chicken salad and a pasta made here that tested positive for listeria. The company has until the end of June to give the FDA a list of “specific things” it’s done to make the place sufficiently sanitary.