Public health inspectors observed several potential food safety problems at a Pacific Northwest sprouts growing facility, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration 483 report.

Clover sprouts produced by the facility, Sprouters Northwest, were identified as the source of a Salmonella outbreak earlier this month. After at least 7 people in Oregon and Washington became ill after eating the clover sprouts, the company recalled all its sprouts.

The FDA’s report, released after a subsequent investigation at the Sprouter’s Northwest facility in Kent, WA, included the following findings:

— Failure to take necessary precautions to protect against contamination of food and food contact surfaces with microorganisms and foreign substances.

Listeria monocytogenes was found on the surface of a stainless steel table in the packing room, according to the report  The raw sprouts were stored in unlined plastic crates so the sprouts at the bottom were in contact with pallets and other totes, which previously had been in contact with the floor. 


— Failure to clean food-contact surfaces as frequently as necessary to protect against contamination of food.

Food debris and residue was found in the hard-to-clean areas in and around the conveyor belt and sprouts that passed along and got briefly stuck in these areas could fall back into the rinse tank.  Inspectors said it appeared that equipment and fixtures in the seed disinfection room were not cleaned between use.

— Failure to clean non-food-contact surfaces of equipment as frequently as necessary to protect against contamination.

Listeria seeligeri was detected on the surface of a brown mass of old, thick food grime on a cross-support place at the top of the rinse incline belt, the report stated. 

— Effective measures are not being taken to protect against contamination of food on the premises by pests.

Inspectors said gaps at the bottom of a door and along the roof line could allow pests access to the facility.  They said they found rodent excreta pellets in the warehouse and noted that the processing room was accessible from the warehouse.

— Failure to properly store equipment, remove litter and waste, and cut weeds or grass that may constitute an attractant, breeding place or harborage area for pests, within the immediate vicinity of the plant, building, or structures.

— Failure to maintain buildings, fixtures, or other physical structures in a sanitary condition

— Failure to hold raw materials in bulk or suitable containers so as to protect against contamination.

Four to five bags partially filled with seed were stored open or not tightly wrapped inside the warehouse, the inspectors reported.