U.S. Marshals raided the 46-year-old Duran & Sons Chili Products in Derry, NM Monday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration obtained a court order to seize the contents of what it said was a rodent and bird infested warehouse.

Duran & Sons LLC, a privately held pepper farm located off Interstate 25 about 50 miles north of Las Cruces, NM, was forced to turn over chili pods, ground chili, crushed chili and other chili products stored in the warehouse.

An embargo had been placed Nov. 17 by the New Mexico Environmental Department on the Duran & Sons warehouse, located about 12 miles from Derry just north of Hatch, NM.

Owner Carl Duran said his company, with revenue of less than a half million dollars a year, was fully cooperating with the FDA, and he was surprised by the raid.  Duran said the seized products had already been marked for destruction.

Duran & Sons employs 5 to 9 people in the small community in southwestern New Mexico.

In seeking the court order, FDA said it was needed to prevent adulterated food from being distributed.

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico issued the warrant for the seizure of all FDA-regulated food in the warehouse. 

The federal government’s complaint alleges that the products are adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because they have been held under insanitary conditions and may have become contaminated with filth.

An FDA inspection of the company’s facility, between Nov. 15 and 22, 2010, revealed “an active and widespread insect and rodent infestation in the food warehouse,” according to the complaint.

”The alleged violations at this facility are serious and widespread,” said Dara A. Corrigan, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs.  “This prompted the FDA to take aggressive enforcement action to protect the health of consumers.”

FDA investigators said they found rodent nesting material and droppings on and around food, several rodent-gnawed containers of food, and stains indicative of rodent urine. 

In addition, they said they saw a live cat, live birds, apparent bird nests, bird droppings, feces and urine from other animals, live and dead insects, and insect larvae throughout the entire product warehouse.  FDA said laboratory analysis of samples collected during the inspection confirmed the investigators’ observations.