Environmental samples taken from inside a south Chicago fresh produce plant tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA said it took the samples during an inspection of Eagle Products from last April 13 to June 24.
In a Nov. 10 warning letter to the produce company, the FDA said its investigation revealed numerous other violations along with Listeria contamination.
“Environmental samples from the floor in your processing room found Listeria monocytogenes, which may colonize wet food processing facilities, especially where organic debris is present,” the warning letter said.
High pressure sprays like those used by Eagle Products to clean its processing area were “reasonably likely to contaminate food contact surfaces with Listeria monocytogenes from the floor,” the FDA wrote.
And there were other problems. The FDA said that during its inspection “an employee was observed removing a used toilet seat lid from an employee restroom and placing it on the hand washing sink adjacent to the production area where ready-to-eat vegetables are processed.”
The regulators asserted that the company was not practicing proper daily cleaning practices, resulting in organic debris being left on belts, slicers, fixtures and other places.
Investigators said they found missing ceiling tiles and areas with water damage where mold growth was likely, including in the production area. Water was found dripping directly onto fresh sliced mushrooms and water was dripping onto other food and food contact services.
Both restroom facility doors opened directly into the area where fresh-cut, ready-to-eat raw mushrooms and fruits and vegetables were being processed, the letter stated. The restrooms were not equipped with fans. Ceiling tiles were also missing from the restrooms and there were signs of leaking water and water stains.
One waste floor drain for a previously installed urinal was exposed and here was a strong sewer-like odor in the area, and inspectors said there was standing water in the rest room.
The warning letter also said condensation dripping from an ice machine, which contained rust-like, mold-like and dirt-like residues, was potentially contaminating food contact surfaces.
Listeria monocytogenes is a pathogenic bacterium that can contaminate foods, sometimes resulting in a severe, life-threatening illness called invasive listeriosis. Immune-compromised individuals and unborn fetuses are particularly susceptible to listeriosis.
Texas closed down SanGar Fresh Produce in San Antonio last Oct. 20 after linking Listeria contamination in the plant and its celery to an outbreak that killed six elderly people.