Whole Foods Markets, Inc., received a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over insanitary conditions and the presence of Listeria, a bacteria that causes food borne illness, at its multiple food manufacturing facility.
The warning comes after a February inspection of the Austin,Texas-based Whole Foods’ North Atlantic Kitchen plant. Agents said foods manufactured at the facility – including pesto pasta, mushroom quesadillas, vegetables, chives, beets, leafy salad greens, and ready-to-eat egg salad – were prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions that could mean the foods were “contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health.”
Inspectors also took 100 environmental samples from within the facility and found both pathogenic and non-pathogenic Listeria on food contact surfaces, “an indicator for the probable presence of Listeria monocytogenes” in the environment, meaning that the cleaning and sanitation practices at the plant may be inadequate, the warning letter states.
Listeria is a serious infection that primarily affects the elderly, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches. Infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life threatening infection of the newborn. In rare cases, people without these risk factors can develop serious complications.
Following the February inspection, Whole Foods responded, promising to take all necessary measures to correct the deficiencies. However, the agency found those actions were not enough to ensure public safety and issued the warning letter. Whole Foods has 15 days to respond and will likely have to cover the cost for re-inspection.