The presence of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in multiple environmental samples collected from a Saranac, Michigan food producer has prompted the federal food police to shut down the company’s facilities.
A complaint filed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Nov. 29 alleges Saranac Brand Foods Inc. and its owners, Dennis and Daniel Nowak, are producing ready-to-eat foods such as macaroni salad, coleslaw, spinach dip, enchilada sauce, and other salads, dips and sauces in a dangerously dirty facility contaminated by Listeria in several places.
Numerous FDA inspections and testing showed that the facility hosted a “resident strain” of the Listeria pathogen, which kills about 255 people in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Listeriosis usually manifests as fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea, nausea, cramps, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost everyone who is diagnosed with listeriosis has “invasive” infection, in which the bacteria spread beyond the gastrointestinal tract.
According to the FDA, in addition to the samples that tested positive for Listeria, FDA inspectors also “observed that the flooring in defendants’ facility’s food processing area was in poor repair with exposed aggregate, chipped areas, ponded water and debris.” Such conditions are known to harbor and promote the spread of Listeria germs.
The FDA maintains that food “prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health” renders it adulterated.
“We all reasonably expect that ready-to-eat foods are, in fact, ready to eat — that they have been prepared in a clean environment and in a way that does not potentially expose the food to dangerous bacteria,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew B. Birge for the Western District of Michigan. “Saranac Brands fell short of that reasonable expectation, so the Department of Justice, including my office, put a stop to their practices.”
Saranac Brand Foods and its owners settled the FDA’s complaint by agreeing to a consent decree that permanently enjoins them from violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. As part of the settlement, the defendants agreed to “discontinue all operations related to receiving, preparing, processing, holding, or distributing any articles of food at or from their business location and any other locations.”
If the defendants intend to resume producing food commercially, they must notify the FDA in advance, comply with specific remedial measures, and allow the FDA to inspect their facility, including the buildings, sanitation-related systems, equipment, utensils, all articles of food, and relevant records.