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FDA warns NJ food firm to clean up or risk forced closure

Neither management nor employees at a New Jersey food manufacturing plant understand the basics of food safety, according to federal officials who described conditions at Products Africana Inc. as “egregious” recently.

Problems included live and dead insects on food and food mixing equipment, live and dead rodents, patches of mold measured in square yards, and puddles of standing water inside the building that were more than two inches deep and six feet across.

FDA WarningIn a May 9 warning letter to owner and president Christopher D. Ashie, the Food and Drug Administration cited numerous violations of federal law at the Products Africana production facility in Plainfield, NJ. FDA inspectors were on site at the facility Jan. 10 through 26.

“The egregious conditions observed at Products Africana Inc. imply that the management and the workers lack a basic knowledge and understanding of food sanitation and hygiene practices and how to implement them,” according to the warning letter, which was posted in recent days.

“… your fermented cornmeal products — Ga and Fanti Kenkey — and Hot pepper sauce with dried shrimp products are adulterated, in that they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health.”

FDA gave Ashie the standard 15 working days to respond to the May 9 warning letter. If the agency is not satisfied, it could shut down the operation.

Inspectors observed violations of several sections of the federal code, including serious deviations from Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) Regulations for Manufacturing, Packaging, or Holding Human Food; and serious violations of the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation, and the Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulation for foods.

“… your firm does not have any instruments to measure pH for your fermented cornmeal products — Ga and Fanti Kenkey — to ensure that the pH is at or below 4.6,” according to the warning letter.

“We have serious concerns about potential growth of spore and toxin forming bacteria, for example Clostridium botulinum and Bacillus cereus in the products.”

Other specific problems cited in the warning letter included:

  • Your firm does not have a cleaning procedure or document any cleaning of equipment or utensils in your facility.
  • Your firm stored Frozen Banana Leaves, used to wrap the cornmeal for the product Fanti Kenkey, under ambient room temperature in the production area. The instructions on the product box states “Keep Frozen at — 18 degrees C/0 degrees F.”
  • Cornmeal dough was observed being weighed and rolled by your employees wearing either their street clothes or lab coats, which were not washed or cleaned on a periodic basis.
  • Non-food-grade totes were used to store the cornmeal dough. The interior surfaces of the totes were rough with excessive scratches and gouges, and some of the totes had holes that were taped with clear packing tape and duct tape.
  • Trays used to hold Ga Kenkey and Fanti Kenkey had excess scratches and gouges and were black and discolored.
  • Black debris was observed on the interior of the mixture being used to mix cornmeal for the production of the product Fanti Kenkey.
  • The exhaust hood is encrusted with dirt and debris and the ceiling tiles above are not secured and observed to be bulging, which may contribute sources of contamination to the products being cooked below.

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