U.S. Marshals executed a federal court order to seize packaged food products by raiding a rat-infested old seed warehouse in Athens, GA that was being used by Mid-States Services Inc. to store food sold to jails and prisons last week.

The Marshals collected about 1,500 cases of crackers, cookies, potato chips, and cereals valued at $859,000 under a warrant for seizure issued by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Georgia Department of Agriculture asked the federal court for the warrant after a joint investigation found the Mid-States Services Inc. was operating without a license and the old seed warehouse was infested with rats.

GDA placed all food in the warehouse on a stop sale order on July 15.   Mid-States destroyed some of the infested food, but the company did not respond to violations documented in a July 14-21 inspection by FDA.

That inspection found “widespread active rodent infestation both inside and outside the facility,” including 14 live rodents, seven dead rodents, rodent nests, gnawed food packages, and rodent droppings “too numerous to count.”

“FDA laboratory analyses of samples collected during the inspection confirmed the presence of rodent excreta pellets in food articles, on containers of food articles, rodent-gnawed holes in bags, and a rodent urine stain on a food container,” court documents say.

“The FDA took this action because the company failed to provide adequate safeguards to ensure that the products they produce or hold for sale remain free of contamination,” said Michael A. Chappell, acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs.

Chappell said quick action by FDA and Georgia agriculture officials prevented contaminated food from reaching jail or prison inmates.

“As soon as we heard about this unlicensed warehouse and the condition under which food was held, we took action with FDA, said Tommy Irvin, Georgia’s commissioner of agriculture. “We used our authority under the Georgia Food Act to immediately stop the sale and movement of food from the warehouse.  We also promptly alerted the facilities in Georgia that had received food from this warehouse.”

The local Clarke County Jail and Correctional Institute did not purchase any food from Mid-States.  FDA said the company made sales to jails and prisons throughout the southeastern United States.