Law360, New York (April 15, 2013, 5:00 PM ET) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and federal prosecutors said Monday that about $1 million in food was seized from kosher food maker and distributor V.I.P. Foods Inc. in Ridgewood, N.Y., after investigators found a rodent infestation in the facility.
According to an FDA statement, agency investigators found unsanitary conditions throughout the facility in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act during an inspection in February. The conditions included live rodents, a dead, desiccated rodent, and what appeared to be rodent tracks, rodent gnaw holes and rodent feces in or near food products.
“V.I.P. Foods housed various dried mixes and bases, such as chicken soup base, blueberry muffin mix and bread crumbs; and the conditions inside this warehouse were just deplorable,” Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in the statement. “We will continue to take aggressive action to protect public health.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said in a complaint that V.I.P. violated the FDCA and that it is seeking forfeiture and condemnation of the adulterated food products.
“The government’s claims arose from an investigation conducted by the FDA which revealed widespread rodent infestation, other insanitary conditions, and issues with V.I.P.’s building structure which provide entryway for insects and rodents. The complaint alleges that FDA inspectors observed live and dead rodents, rodent-gnawed containers of food, rodent nests within pallets of food and packaging materials, rodent excreta pellets too numerous to count scattered throughout V.I.P.’s premises, and rodent urine stains on and around food product and food product packaging,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, called V.I.P.’s warehouse “a picnic ground for rodents.”
“The company failed utterly in its obligation to provide food deemed safe for human consumption. Those who store, package and sell the food we serve our families have a responsibility to maintain basic standards of cleanliness in their facilities. We are committed to protecting the public from health risks and ensuring that food manufacturers comply with the federal laws prohibiting them from preparing, packing and holding food products under unsanitary conditions,” Lynch said in a statement.
The company says on its website that it was founded in 1983, as a supplier of soup bases and dessert mixes to the foodservice industry, leading to it becoming a supplier to the health care field, as well as the catering and restaurant markets.
Counsel information for V.I.P. was not immediately available.
The case is U.S.A. v. V.I.P. Foods Inc., case number 13-cv-01440, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
–Editing by John Quinn.