A July 14-31st inspection of a California almond processing facility found Salmonella senftenberg contamination at several locations inside the plant, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In a Nov. 6th letter to Modesto, CA-based Valley Harvest Nut Company Inc., FDA’s San Francisco District Director Barbara J. Cassens said almonds processed in the facility were found to be adulterated within the meaning of section 402 (a)(4) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The Salmonella contamination was found in 14 locations inside the plant with some found “very near” to where almonds were being processed, meaning the risk of contamination was high.

The nut company did targeted cleaning in the areas where FDA discovered salmonella contamination, but testing continued to find positive samples.  

Cassens warned Bobby E. Conway, company president, that Salmonella might be growing in niche areas of the facility.

“It is essential that you identify the niche areas and to take such corrective actions as are necessary to eradicate the organism by rendering these areas unable to support the growth and survival of the organism,” Cassens wrote Conway.

FDA found the almond company was violating Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations, meaning its almonds could be injurious to health.   

It found:

Bins were being stored on the floor.

Dirty and hard to clean materials were being used.

Pests could enter the processing room through a hole in the wall that was not screened.

Flies were landing on food products and contact surfaces.

Rodent excreta dropping were observed in the finished product room.

The FDA “Warning Letter,” released Dec. 15, acknowledges the almond company responded to the inspection report in an Aug. 5th letter.  However, FDA says the response letter “fails” to adequately address” certain issues like the use of cardboard barriers and pest control.

FDA asks Valley Harvest Nut Co. Inc. to respond again, this time within 15 working days, to address how it plans for come into compliance with federal regulations.