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FDA warns peanut firm about insanitary conditions, labeling

A peanut production facility in Virginia is on notice from the Food and Drug Administration for serious violations of food safety regulations regarding sanitary conditions during production, storage and transportation, and product labeling.

Officials from the FDA’s Baltimore District Office inspected the Petersburg, VA, location of Coleman Peanut Co. from Nov. 29 through Dec. 5 in 2016. They determined the company’s peanut products were prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, and may have been rendered injurious to health, according to an Aug. 2 warning letter recently made public by the FDA.

“During the inspection, FDA found that your facility had serious violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) in Manufacturing, Packing, or Holding Human Food regulation.”

FDA investigators reviewed several product labels and discovered serious labeling violations. The FDA also reviewed the company website in May 2017, where they take online orders for their peanut products at www.epeanuts.com.

“Based on our review of your product labels and your website, we have concluded that your product labeling is in violation of the food labeling regulations, Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, which causes your products to be misbranded,” according to the warning letter.

The report cited several violations classified as significant:

  • Failure to take effective measures to exclude pests from the processing areas and protect against the contamination of food on the premises by pests; a cat was observed crawling atop permeable bags of in-shell peanuts; cat feces and flying insects were observed in the processing plant and around packaged peanut products;
  • Failure to manufacture and store foods under conditions and controls necessary to minimize contamination; during the inspection, and opening along the bottom of the entire length of the plant where the sliding doors are located was observed exposing the interior of the firm to the outside environment;
  • Failure to ensure employees at the firm wash hands thoroughly in an adequate hand-washing facility before starting work; firm management was observed touching a cat and handling the trash into the firm’s dumpster; firm management was then observed placing their bare hands into a sink where blanched, shelled, peanuts were waiting to be cooked in your plant without washing their hands;
  • Employees were observed using tobacco in areas where food is exposed and equipment or utensils are washed; cigarette butts in ashtrays were observed in two areas of an oil cooking plant near a 2-vat sink and near packaged peanut products;
  • Failure to conduct cleaning and sanitizing operations for utensils and equipment in a manner that protects against contamination of food and food-contact surfaces;
  • Failure to properly store equipment that may constitute an attractant, breeding place, or harborage area for pests, within the immediate vicinity of the plant buildings or structures; old, unused equipment were being stored in multiple areas of the plant;
  • Failure to operate fans and other air-blowing equipment in a manner that minimizes the potential for contaminating food and food-contact surfaces; accumulated dust was observed on the blades of the industrial fan blowing on shelled peanuts and an uncovered air conditioning vent with visible debris inside of it was located over exposed peanut products; and
  • Failure of employees to wear hair restraints where appropriate; employees were observed manufacturing peanut products without wearing a hairnet.

The warning letter cited several significant violations in the relation to misbranded food:

  • Failure to bear nutrition information; the company’s Old Fashioned Peanut Candy, VA Peanuts Unsalted/Salted, Butter Toffee Peanuts, and A Southern Tradition Peanuts labels fail to bear nutrition information;
  • Fabrication from two or more ingredients and failure to bear a complete list of all ingredients by common or usual name in descending order of predominance by weight as well as sub-ingredients;
  • Failure to list component ingredients or “sub-ingredients;” and
  • Failure to declare the place of business of the manufacturer in product labeling; failure to include a street address, failure to provide quantity of contents in terms of the metric system.

In addition to the missing labeling information required by the FDA, the company also failed to use correct terms regarding several nutrient content claims. Specifically, the company used the claim, “outstanding source of protein,” but the FDA has not defined the term “outstanding source of protein” for acceptable use on food labels.

“The terms ‘high,’ ‘rich in,’ or ‘excellent source of’ may be used to characterize the level of a nutrient on the label and in the labeling of foods provided that the food contains 20 percent or more of the Daily Reference Value (DRV) per reference amount customarily consumed (RACC),” according to the warning letter.

Additionally, “the terms “good source,” “contains,” or “provides” may be used on the label provided that the food contains 10 to 19 percent of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) or Daily Reference Value.”

These violations were a handful of the examples that rendered the firm’s peanut products to be in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The FDA allows companies 15 working days to respond to warning letters. If companies fail to properly correct violations, legal action can result in seizure of products and injunctions stopping operations. FDA has not yet posted a closeout letter on the case.

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