The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is using a “Warning Letter” to clean up deficiencies that may remain at Florida’s Tampa Peanut Distributors.

Earlier this year Salmonella contamination at peanut processing facilities in Georgia and Texas led to the largest recall of peanut products in U.S. history.  Conditions observed inside those facilities, owned by the now bankrupt Peanut Corporation of American, were very much like those the FDA found in this Tampa company.

Frozen, ready-to-eat boiled peanuts are manufactured by Tampa Peanut Distributors.

FDA inspected the food manufacturing facility at 4419 North Hubert Ave., Suite Q, in Tampa, FL on June 2-5, 2009 finding insanitary conditions.  FDA’s findings were written up in a Form 483 report, and the company has written a response to it.

But the Oct. 8, 2009 Warning Letter makes it clear that Tampa Peanut Distributors still has a ways to go.  Specifically, FDA said the peanut processor must:

  • Eliminate pests in the facility.
  • Provide adequate screening or other protection to prevent pests from entering the facility.
  • Maintain buildings, fixtures, and other physical facilities of the plant.
  • Prevent contamination of all containers, utensils, and equipment.
  • Conduct manufacturing, packing, and storage in a manner to minimize contamination.
  • Provide proper hand washing facilities
  • Light the entire facility brightly enough to monitor for pests and filth.

FDA inspectors found rodent-gnawed holes in six out of 17 bags of raw, in-shell peanuts in one lot of peanuts and 12 rodent “excreta pellets” and five rodent-gnawed peanuts on another lot.

The company voluntarily destroyed 51 50-lb bags of peanuts from those two lots.

FDA inspectors also found a dead, decomposing rodent stuck to a glue board; no less than 200 rodent “excreta pellets;” and gnawed peanut shells in an area adjacent to an open peanut storage room.  They found a rodent urine stain as long as ten inches, rodent “excreta pellets” at the base of bay doors, and in storage closets, and dead insects and lizards.

The facility’s bay door left an open space of about six inches and there were missing ceiling tiles that give pests access to production and storage areas.

Ceiling tiles above cooking kettles were also found to be covered with organic material. Seams on food-contact surfaces should be smooth for proper cleaning and “minimize the accumulation of food particles and other organic materials.”

The Warning Letter says organic residues were observed to be “encrusted” on the inner surfaces of the cooking kettles.

FDA says the cooking kettles being used by Tampa Peanut Distributors had holes worn in their bottoms and “were deeply scratched and stained from previous manufacturing operations.”

“Moreover, these same tubs were being stored on unclean, unsanitized floor of your facility.”

FDA also said inspectors found open ingredient bags on the same pallet with soiled bags with “particles of unknown origin.”  Its hand washing facility lacked soap, paper towels, sanitizing solutions or any other means of cleaning, drying or sanitizing.

Attempts to reach a spokesman for Tampa Peanut Distributors were unsuccessful.  The company has 15 working days to respond to the FDA Warning Letter.