Product Liability

FDA seeks to shut down Brooklyn food manufacturer for good

The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking to permanently shut down a Brooklyn, New York-based maker of ready-to-eat deli salads, seafood, and cream cheeses. Food and Drug Administration inspectors say that NY Gourmet Salads Inc. has a history of serious non-compliance with federal food safety standards and the presence of potentially deadly bacteria in its processing facilities and foods.

The complaint, which also seeks a permanent injunction against the company’s owner and president Leonard Spada, was filed July 30 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The Justice Department charges the defendant with violating federal food regulations by introducing food that was prepared, packed, or held under unsanitary conditions into the market and which may be contaminated.

FDA inspections in 2006, 2007, and 2009 found unsanitary conditions at NY Gourmet’s facility. Inspectors also documented the company’s failure to follow several federal regulations governing food products, including seafood. According to the FDA, the company promised to address and correct the violations each time, but a March 2010 inspection confirmed that the company failed to correct the problems.

Specifically, the complaint notes the presence of Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) throughout the defendants’ facility and in a sample of its finished food products. The complaint also says that the strain of L. mono found in a sample of the defendants’ chickpea salad in 2010 was exactly the same as the strain found in the defendants’ facility during inspections last year, indicating that the bacteria had formed a lasting presence in the plant.

L. mono bacteria causes listeriosis, a disease that can be serious and even fatal for high-risk individuals such as unborn babies, newborns, the elderly, and those with weakened or impaired immune systems. The most serious forms of listeriosis can result in meningitis and septicemia. Pregnant women may contract flu-like symptoms from listeriosis, and complications from the disease can result in miscarriage or septicemia in the newborn.

“The continued presence of L. mono in a food processing facility is a particularly significant public health risk,” said Michael A. Chappell, acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “In this case, the L. mono was not only found in the facility, but later turned up in a sample of the firm’s food. We will not allow food producers to put consumers at risk by repeatedly breaking promises to clean up their facilities.”

NY Gourmet Salads sells its products in New York and New Jersey, including supermarkets and airline caterers, possibly spreading germs and disease throughout the country’s most densely populated metropolitan areas and beyond.