Listeria is contaminating the Sun Hang Bean Sprout Inc. processing facility at 1330 Erskine Street in Detroit, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disclosed Tuesday.  Insanitary conditions at Sun Hang mean the mung bean sprouts processed at the facility are adulterated or impure.

FDA inspectors visiting the sprout processing facility found a long list of problems, including:

  • Employees were seen pulling perforated barrels containing bean sprouts across a wet cement floor where up to an inch of water was flowing across it with contact to open sewage drains.
  • An employee operating a centrifuge for spinning sprouts was using the bottom of his soiled shoe or boot to slow and stop the ready-to-pack beans.
  • Bean sprouts in perforated barrels were observed stagger-stacked two barrels deep with the bottom holes of one directly over the sprouts in the barrel below.
  • More than 100 rodent excreta pellets were observed, along with a rodent nesting area in the wall/floor junction of the restroom, and rodents are able to contaminate food and food contact surfaces with harmful filth and bacteria.
  • An insect identified as a “German cockroach” was found in the wet processing room and other cockroaches around the wooden pallet-mounted centrifuge.  Insects can also contaminate food and food contact surfaces with harmful filth and bacteria.
  • There was a brownish-black buildup on the white plastic shovels used to transfer bean sprouts in the wet processing room.
  • There is also yellowish-orange plaque build-up on the separating machine and a brownish-black buildup on the separator chain and bearing housing.
  • No hand washing was observed, even after employees performed numerous tasks that soiled their hands and then went back to handling sprouts.

FDA notified Sun Hang about its concerns in a Jan. 19 “Warning Letter” that was made public Tuesday.  FDA’s Detroit District Director Joann M. Givens wrote Rui Cai Li, president of Sun Hang, that the pathogen L. monocytogenes was found inside the facility around the sprout centrifuge machine.

Once inside a food processing facility, Listeria is often difficult to remove.

“We acknowledge the verbal commitment you made during the inspection that you would clean your facility, create and maintain a cleaning schedule, and provide education to your employees concerning hygiene and proper food handling,” Givens wrote.

The sprout company has 15 working days to respond to the “Warning Letter.”