Liquid Manufacturing LLC built a beverage business in Brighton, Michigan, diversifying from malt beverages to a long list of non-alcoholic drinks including everything from fresh berry juices to citrus products.

Located close to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, Liquid Manufacturing has even helped student entrepreneurs with small batch runs for newly developed energy drinks.

Making baby food, however, may be a bridge too far for the Michigan beverage business.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Peter W. Paisley, Liquid’s chief executive officer, have been exchanging letters since the facility at 6150 Whitmore Lake Road in Brighton was inspected over eight days last January.

FDA showed up at the plant in response to consumer complaints about swollen pouches of baby food manufactured by Liquid.

Food Safety News has learned those swollen pouches of baby food were being manufactured by Liquid for New York-based Nurture Inc. under its HAPPYTOT Stage 4 and HAPPYBABY Stage 1 and 2 “pouch meals.”

Nurture Inc. recalled those products on Jan.13, but neither the company nor FDA disclosed Liquid’s role in the recall.  FDA in turn redacted Nurture’s name in the March 26 warning letter it released about Liquid.

No illnesses are known to have resulted from the bad baby food.

“The inspection determined that your facility produced acidified foods and other acid food products and revealed that you have significant deviations from the requirements of 21 CFR Part 108, 21 CFR Part 114, and 21 CFR Part 110,” FDA said in a March 26 warning letter to the company.

“These significant deviations caused your acidified food products and acid food products to be adulterated within the meaning of Section 402(a)(3) of the Act [21 U.S.C.§ 342(a)(3)] in that they consist in whole or in part of any filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance, or if they are otherwise unfit for food, and within the meaning of Section 402(a)(4) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 342 (a)(4)] in that they have been prepared, packed, or held under unsanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby they may have been rendered injurious to heath,” the warning letter continued.

In response to the January inspection, Liquid Manufacturing wrote FDA on Feb. 11 to report that it had taken corrective actions, including increasing the frequency of vacuum chamber testing during production and purchasing new package integrity equipment.

FDA said it did “not consider your February response acceptable.”

The agency said, “Identifying and correcting the point of malfunction in the fitment/capping equipment remains a significant concern and must be completely resolved to ensure that this problem does not happen again.”

In January, the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) at FDA’s behest prohibited Liquid Manufacturing from processing and distributing acidified “baby food”.  At the same time, Liquid and Nurture agreed to the recall.

FDA said its inspection “revealed a series of container closure failures resulting in unsealed product pouches contaminating the overall production system, including water used for cooling. Further, insufficient container closures created a route for contamination of the finished products.”

Liquid’s finished product pouches and sealing system was not protecting the baby food from contamination, FDA found.

Baby food production cannot resume until the problem is “completely resolved,” it said.

In its customer warehouse, FDA found numerous abnormal (swollen) containers, some of which were leaking.  The agency took 14 samples away for testing, and found molds and yeasts.

Micro leaks were found in pouch seams.

In its warning letter to the Michigan company, FDA outlines the specific actions the firm must take before it can pack any new acidified or low-acid food products.