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Feds seek closure of school, military supplier after Listeria tests

A federal civil complaint filed Monday seeks to immediately stop Native American Enterprises LLC from distributing adulterated food, following positive results on Listeria tests and repeated warnings from federal officials.

The Wichita-based company produces “namely refried beans and sauces” and ready-to-eat taco meat products, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas. Customers of Native American Enterprises (NAE) include Kansas public schools, the U.S. military and restaurants, according to its website.

A fourth-generation founded in 1930, family-owned food processing company, NAE is currently owned by brothers William and Scott McGreevy, both members of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.

NAESign_406x250In addition to the company, the complaint names part-owner William N. McGreevy and production manager Robert C. Connor.

Led by the Consumer Protection Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, federal attorneys filed the action Monday after years of inspections, warnings and notices by the Food and Drug Administration.

In April 2015, FDA inspectors determined insanitary conditions exist inside the NAE facility, including the presence of Listeria Monocytogenes, or L. mono, and insanitary practices by employees.

In August 2015 FDA inspectors collected 100 environmental samples at NAE, of which 39 tested positive for Listeria: 34 were positive for Listeria monocytogenes and five others were positive for other Listeria species.

Because it can survive and thrive in refrigerated and high-salt environments, Listeria monocytogenes is a significant public health risk in ready-to-eat refined beans and sauces, federal attorneys contend in their complaint.

In addition to the FDA, the NAE facility is regulated by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) because it produces a taco filling with a meat product. The federal food safety agencies want the district court in Wichita to permanently restrain and enjoin NAE with an order to “cease” receiving, processing, manufacturing, preparing, packaging, holding or distributing any food until the facility is brought into compliance with the law.

The Department of Justice says a complaint is a set of allegations that the government would have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence if the matter went to trial.

“Insanitary conditions at food processing facilities can present significant risks to consumers and food manufacturers must take steps to minimize those risks,” said Benjamin C. Mizer, the principal deputy attorney general who heads DOJ’s civil division.

“The Department of Justice will continue to work aggressively with the FDA to combat and deter conduct that leads to the distribution of adulterated food to consumers.”

During the inspections in August 2015, FDA personnel observed leaks in the roof of the NAE facility, at 230 N. West Street in Wichita. The leak was over a packaging room for refried beans. The inspectors reported cracks and holes in the walls and floor junctures were allowing water and debris to collect, preventing adequate cleaning, and creating a potential harbor for L. mono.

During inspections in 2014, FDA noted failures to maintain equipment or conduct appropriate cleaning and sanitizing.

In addition to DOJ, the U.S. Attorney for Kansas, and attorneys for FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services are cooperating on the case against NAE.

The corporate entity NAE, McGreevy and Conner are not yet represented by any legal counsel. The case had not been assigned to a judge or magistrate as of Monday afternoon.

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