La Mexicana Inc, a Seattle-based manufacturer and distributor of Mexican food, has some food safety problems.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent investigators to the food processing facility for four days last October and they concluded La Mexicana has “documented serious deviations” from manufacturing regulations.

FDA says La Mexicana allowed a worker with an “open lesion” to handle “dough with a sore approximately half an inch in diameter on the employee’s right forearm, including placing his right forearm into the bulk dough in direct contact with the sore on his arm.”

Anyone with illness, open lesions–including boils, sores, or infected wounds, or any other abnormal source of microbial contamination–should not be working with food, food contact services, or packaging, according to Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP).

FDA says its investigators observed several instances of La Mexicana workers failing to conform to hygienic practices.  Examples included an employee who tied gloves around an apron strap when on break and returned to handling food without washing and sanitizing her gloved hands or replacing soiled gloves with new ones; and a half dozen employees who did not wash their hands when arriving on shift.

In manufacturing, FDA says La Mexicana allows a conveyer belt exiting the oven section of its tortilla machine to pass under a vent that has an accumulation of flour residue and dust that is starting to flake.   Another problem are two large fans that are covered with dust and flour that blows onto finished tortillas.

FDA found considerable evidence of pests inside the facility, including packages that had been gnawed upon, excreta pellets in the packaging and other areas.  And utensils and food contact surfaces also need attention.  One example is the residue build up in circular cutting blades.

La Mexicana also cannot keep pests out because its facility lacks tight doors and good screening.  There are large gaps around bay doors.

A Feb. 16 “Warning Letter” to La Mexicana was made public Tuesday.  FDA’s Seattle District Director Charles M. Breen urged the Mexican food maker to “take prompt action to correct all the violations noted in this letter.”

Also getting a Feb. 16 “Warning Letter” was Addison, IL-based Gourmet Express Marketing Inc.  It’s seafood-processing facility, which makes cooked and frozen shrimp, was told its products were “misbranded” for the way it weighs the ice glaze.

FDA also said the company is substituting Ocean Perch for both “Pacific Snapper” and “Red Snapper.”