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U.S. Marshals Go on Chili Raid in New Mexico

U.S. Marshals raided the 46-year-old Duran & Sons Chili Products in Derry, NM Monday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration obtained a court order to seize the contents of what it said was a rodent and bird infested warehouse.

Duran & Sons LLC, a privately held pepper farm located off Interstate 25 about 50 miles north of Las Cruces, NM, was forced to turn over chili pods, ground chili, crushed chili and other chili products stored in the warehouse.

An embargo had been placed Nov. 17 by the New Mexico Environmental Department on the Duran & Sons warehouse, located about 12 miles from Derry just north of Hatch, NM.

Owner Carl Duran said his company, with revenue of less than a half million dollars a year, was fully cooperating with the FDA, and he was surprised by the raid.  Duran said the seized products had already been marked for destruction.

Duran & Sons employs 5 to 9 people in the small community in southwestern New Mexico.

In seeking the court order, FDA said it was needed to prevent adulterated food from being distributed.

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico issued the warrant for the seizure of all FDA-regulated food in the warehouse. 

The federal government’s complaint alleges that the products are adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because they have been held under insanitary conditions and may have become contaminated with filth.

An FDA inspection of the company’s facility, between Nov. 15 and 22, 2010, revealed “an active and widespread insect and rodent infestation in the food warehouse,” according to the complaint.


”The alleged violations at this facility are serious and widespread,” said Dara A. Corrigan, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs.  “This prompted the FDA to take aggressive enforcement action to protect the health of consumers.”


FDA investigators said they found rodent nesting material and droppings on and around food, several rodent-gnawed containers of food, and stains indicative of rodent urine. 

In addition, they said they saw a live cat, live birds, apparent bird nests, bird droppings, feces and urine from other animals, live and dead insects, and insect larvae throughout the entire product warehouse.  FDA said laboratory analysis of samples collected during the inspection confirmed the investigators’ observations.  
 

© Food Safety News
  • Thanks, FSN, for informing us about this. Had y’all not, I doubt I would have heard of it until much later, if at all.
    I ask that FSN monitor the situation and give us follow up reports because there appears to be an evolving pattern of aggressive FDA action ONLY against small businesses.
    As I recall, the conditions described in the FDA inspections are quite similar to those found at Wright County Egg yet, in that case, no eggs were declared adulterated nor anything seized. Rather, the eggs were VOLUNTARILY diverted to pasteurization despite the fact that Bullock’s Bar-B-Que and other outbreaks which were then being investigated indicated that pasteurized egg whites were the source of, at least, 2 salmonella enteritidis outbreaks. The Wright County Egg press release of August 13, 2010 states, “As a precautionary measure, Wright County Egg also has decided to divert its existing inventory of shell eggs to a breaker, where they will be pasteurized to kill any Salmonella bacteria present.” (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm222501.htm)
    Also, this demonstrates the huge power of the FDA under existing law and shows clearly how quickly a mandatory recall can be obtained under current law. Of course, the FDA does have to make up its mind and then put together a sufficient case to convince the appropriate federal judge. I’m wondering how long it took for the court to respond. Was it any longer than would be required for the Secretary of HHS to make a decision under Sec 206 of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act? Or would the Secretary of HHS be faster because of closer to a “rubber stamp” than an actual considered review?
    Or was the lack of mandatory recall under current law used to fire up ill-informed people and always just a “red herring?”

  • Michael Bulger

    A quick review of this site turns up instances of raids and court ordered shut-downs.
    The obvious contradiction to your impression that large producers do not face the same level of “aggression” is SanGer in Texas. I’m going to be liberal with your comment and assume that by FDA you meant health departments (including the state authorities who shut down places like Morningland Dairy).
    In Texas, the state had the legal authority to shut down the large produce plant.
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/10/texas-closes-produce-plant-associated-with-five-deaths/
    The FDA has also raided and seized goods worth above $500,000 at least twice this year.
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/08/marshals-raid-rat-infested-food-warehouse/
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/10/fda-seizes-food-in-georgia-warehouse/
    As I understand it, Estrella Creamery refused a recall on Sept. 3. The warrant to seize products from Estrella was not signed until Oct. 20. That is about a seven-week period.
    You also need to keep in mind that these are seizures of unsold products. These are not recalls. Mandatory recall is another matter.
    I hope this has helped.

  • Thanks, FSN, for informing us about this. Had y’all not, I doubt I would have heard of it until much later, if at all.
    I ask that FSN monitor the situation and give us follow up reports because there appears to be an evolving pattern of aggressive FDA action ONLY against small businesses.
    As I recall, the conditions described in the FDA inspections are quite similar to those found at Wright County Egg yet, in that case, no eggs were declared adulterated nor anything seized. Rather, the eggs were VOLUNTARILY diverted to pasteurization despite the fact that Bullock’s Bar-B-Que and other outbreaks which were then being investigated indicated that pasteurized egg whites were the source of, at least, 2 salmonella enteritidis outbreaks. The Wright County Egg press release of August 13, 2010 states, “As a precautionary measure, Wright County Egg also has decided to divert its existing inventory of shell eggs to a breaker, where they will be pasteurized to kill any Salmonella bacteria present.” (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm222501.htm)
    Also, this demonstrates the huge power of the FDA under existing law and shows clearly how quickly a mandatory recall can be obtained under current law. Of course, the FDA does have to make up its mind and then put together a sufficient case to convince the appropriate federal judge. I’m wondering how long it took for the court to respond. Was it any longer than would be required for the Secretary of HHS to make a decision under Sec 206 of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act? Or would the Secretary of HHS be faster because of closer to a “rubber stamp” than an actual considered review?
    Or was the lack of mandatory recall under current law used to fire up ill-informed people and always just a “red herring?”