We received a Warning Letter from the FDA following their January inspection of our facility. We are happy to get to the next stage with the FDA, and we appreciate that the FDA went to the unusual step of noting in the letter the significant work and changes we made since we first learned of a Listeria issue back in April 2015. We have seen some initial news coverage of the letter, and thought it would help to put it in context.
Listeria Is Combatted by Constantly Searching For It
When food production companies look hard enough, often enough, they will find Listeria in their food production facilities. Listeria is so widespread in the natural world, it will inevitably find its way into otherwise clean environments. To control Listeria, the best food production companies are constantly searching for it through environmental swabbing and then eradicating it—before it has the chance to spread to any food contact surfaces. That is how a good Listeria control program works; that is how ours is working.
We Are Aggressively Searching for Listeria; Our Program and Protocols Are Working
In the last year we have performed more than 2,000 environmental swabs in our constant search to detect Listeria. In that year, Listeria has never been detected on a food contact surface, or in Zone 2 (the immediate area around food contact surfaces). We have detected Listeria on the floor between our dish cleaning room and preparation area in the last year as noted in the letter, and immediately took corrective/preventive actions and followed our protocols to do what a strong environmental program does: prevent its spread to Zone 2 or food contact surfaces. Our program and protocols have done exactly what they are supposed to do.
And We Test Every Batch We Make
Even though our environmental testing program and sanitation procedures have controlled Listeria in our facility and have prevented the spread of Listeria to Zone 2 or food contact surfaces, we nevertheless test every batch of every product we prepare in our facility and hold the product until the tests confirm that there is no Listeria present—and only then do we release it. We instituted this test-and-hold procedure when we reopened a year ago and we have not had a single batch test positive for Listeria. We believe our product testing to be the most thorough in the nation.
As a result of our sanitation and other food safety procedures, our environmental testing program and our test-and-hold procedures, we can assure everyone that the food we produce is absolutely 100% safe. Beyond that, we want to clarify that the periodic detection of Listeria on non-food contact surfaces is not in any way abnormal in the industry or indicative of an “outbreak” of Listeria.