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FDA Finds Violations at Tribal Food Warehouse

Significant violations of federal food regulations were found during an inspection of a food commodity warehouse owned by the Quinault Indian Nation located on Washington state’s Pacific Coast.

The Quinault Indian Nation consists of the Quinault and Queets tribes and descendants of five other Pacific Coast tribes: Quileute, Hoh, Chehalis, Chinook, and Cowlitz .  

It is based in Taholah in Washington state’s Gray’s Harbor County.

In a Sept. 7 warning letter, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said food held in the warehouse was adulterated because it was “prepared, packed, or held under unsanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, or may have been rendered injurious to health.”

According to the recently released warning letter, an FDA inspection of the warehouse on Jan. 14-15, 2010 found “significant violations” of federal food codes  in the Quinault’s facility.

FDA said rather than keeping the warehouse free from pests, the inspection found:

  • A live black rodent was observed running from the southwest corner of the warehouse to the northwest corner.  This rodent appeared to be relatively large, an estimated 7″ in length. 


  • Rodent excreta pellets (REPs) were found throughout the food commodity warehouse. The REPs were found underneath all of the pallets containing food items, around the pallets’  immediate surrounding areas and throughout the inside perimeter, as follows:

  • At least 300 REPs and nesting material were observed in the corner adjacent to the pedestrian door on the south wall.

  • At least 125 REPs and fluorescent urine stains were observed underneath a forklift in the northwest corner.

  • 87 REPs were observed underneath a wooden pallet holding one opened case of boxed corn flakes in the middle of the warehouse.

  • At least 75 REPs were observed on and around a wooden pallet stored along the west wall in the northwest corner.

  • At least 50 REPs were observed on the floor between the wall and door of the walk-in cooler.

  • Twelve REPs were observed underneath a wooden pallet holding 20 cases of canned mix fruit and apricot halves along the north wall;

  • Nine REPs were observed underneath a wooden pallet holding cases of canned orange juice on the north side of the warehouse.

  • Eight REPs were observed underneath a wooden pallet holding cases of canned food product and three REPs were observed underneath a second wooden pallet holding cases of canned food product along the north wall of the warehouse.

  • Ten REPs were observed surrounding black garbage bags and debris in the southwest corner of the warehouse.

  • Seven REPs were observed surrounding a … rodent trap adjacent to wooden pallets on the floor.

And the agency said rather than maintaining the warehouse to protect against any physical, chemical or microbial contamination, it found:

  • Water observed leaking from the water-stained ceiling in close proximity to the packaged food products.

  • Pooled water observed on the warehouse floor, approximately one foot from stored packaged food.

  • Cardboard cases of finished food products being stored directly on the warehouse floor.

Instead of sanitary conditions and facilities kept in good repair, FDA found:

Insulation falling from the ceiling panels and gaps along the ceiling along the north wall. 

A gap between the wall and the ceiling, and insulation falling in the corner west of the pedestrian door.

  • Gaps between the east wall and the adjoining ceiling, and above the south exit door and ceiling area, in the southeast corner.

  • False ceiling tile pulled away from the ceiling wood support beams along the east wall.

  • False ceiling tile detached from the wood support along the south wall.

  • False ceiling tiles detached from the wood support beams, and ceiling tiles exhibiting water stains, in the center of the warehouse.

  • Stained false ceiling panels detached from the wood support section in the southwest corner.

  • False ceiling tiles exhibiting staining and/or detached from the upper wood support along the west wall.

And instead of well-managed litter, waste, and weeds, FDA said it found:

  • Overgrowth of shrubs, grass, and weeds along the commodity warehouse east wall.

  • Overgrowth of shrubs, grass, weeds, the presence of wooden beams, other miscellaneous debris, and a truck trailer behind the commodity warehouse along the west wall.

  • Empty cardboard boxes and wooden pallets stored near a freezer by the west wall.

  • Empty cardboard boxes, plastic bags, and plastic “milk” type crates stored on the floor along the southwest wall.

FDA said the warning letter might not list all violations at the warehouse.   It asked the tribe to respond within 15 working days on steps it is taking to correct the violations.


According to Andrew Mail, vice president of The Quinault Indian Nation, the food commodity warehouse that was the subject of FDA’s inspection is solely to store food that is made available only to Tribal members in a manner similar to a food bank.  

He said the warehouse  has nothing to do with any of the Quinault Indian Nation’s enterprises, including Quinault Pride Seafood and the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, which is located some distance from the warehouse.

The tribe also owns the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino located in Ocean Shores, WA.

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