Over 70 tons of ethnic foods stored in a pest-infected warehouse near the intersection of Interstates 405 and 10 in southern California had to be destroyed earlier this year.
Disclosure that Gardena, CA-based Shah Distributors Inc. destroyed the 73 tons of ethnic foods came in a July 15 warning letter to the company headed by Anas Shah that was made public on Sept. 21.
The warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) followed 10 days of inspection at the Shah facility in February and March.
Shah Distributor imports food from India, the Middle East, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Its product line includes groceries, rice, lentils, spices, tea, and ready-to-eat food and frozen options.
In the warning letter, FDA recapped the observations from the inspection. These included:
-Rodent, bird, insect and other pest activity found inside the warehouse, including in the repackaging area.
-FDA and the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LACDPH) witnessed the destruction of 43 tons of foods due to “substantial pest activity” in the facility, and the two agencies “acknowledge the voluntary destruction of approximately 30 tons of other products.”
-Equipment and utensils not being cleaned and maintained. A packaging machine not being cleaned between products and spices and unidentified food found in a weight-machine hopper.
-Proper precautions not being taken to prevent microorganisms and filth from contaminating food and food contact surfaces.
-No physical barriers between the repacking area and the rest of the warehouse. No door and no walls to the ceiling.
-A gap in the drywall along the entire length of the corner of the walls.
-Building not properly maintained; an 8-inch by 12-inch hole in the northeast corner of the warehouse and other gaps and holes.
-Screening, where it exists, with holes and gaps.
-Inadequate employee toilet facilities; air vent covered with “grime and hair” and hole in the ceiling “exposing wood flanks underneath.”
-Fluorescent lighting strip over the repacking area uncovered or otherwise unprotected from breakage. Safety-type light bulbs required.
-Hand-washing facilities not adequate.
FDA said Shah promised to take certain corrective actions, including a new pest control program, cleaning, removing debris, repairing walls, and fixing walls and ceilings in the repackaging room.
Still, FDA asked Shah to respond in 15 business days with specific steps it is taking to correct its violations.