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Coffee Roaster Spent Spring Battling Rodents

In Seattle, America’s capital of coffee, much is expected. But Zoka Coffee Company, LLC had in the past 15 years dealt only with inspectors from the Washington State Department of Agriculture — until last April.

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That’s when inspectors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration showed up at Zoka’s Seattle coffee roasting facility, after an unusually cold winter had caused some outdoor pests to move indoors. FDA inspectors said Zoka was being overrun.

FDA inspectors also said they observed poor hand-washing practices by employees, and criticized the company for not handling containers, equipment and utensils in a manner that would protect against contamination.

FDA’s findings prompted the coffee company to close down for four days for a top-to-bottom cleaning, during which it threw out any product that even looked questionable.

Zoka management says only those areas where its green coffee is stored were involved, and coffee roasting — 450 degrees for 20 minutes — is a pretty certain “kill step.”

According to a Sept. 8 warning letter sent to Zoka by FDA, rodent activity was found in 10 different locations in the production room, four areas in the training room, three locations in the break room and on the floor and shelving units of the tea packing room. The letter acknowledged that in April Zoka had voluntarily destroyed two 132-bags of green coffee beans that were contaminated with rodent filth.

Zoka responded to the FDA’s Form 483 on the inspection with a plan to respond to the rodent infestation, which a spokesman says has been carried out.

However, FDA’s warning letter said the plan did not say how corrective actions would be documented.

Zoka has since passed a state re-inspection and is confident it is now in compliance with FDA’s requirements.

Zoka, which has three retail outlets in the Seattle area, was given 15 business days to respond to the FDA warning letter.  

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