A soybean sprout processing facility in Newark was found contaminated with filth and pathogens, a Feb. 10 warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says.

FDA released the warning letter to the public this week. It shows that Global Protein Food Inc. was inspected last Oct. 13 through Nov 3, and it alleges that the company’s soybean sprouts were adulterated as defined by federal law.

As a result of that inspection, Global Protein agreed at the time to destroy all packaged and in-process soybean sprouts, all bottled soymilk, all packaged tofu, all packaged yuba, and fifteen 55-pound bags of soybeans held or processed at the Newark facility.

FDA charged Global Protein Food, a private company founded in 1992 and incorporated in New York State, with violations involving both insanitary conditions and Current Good Manufacturing Practice.

“These conditions cause the food products produced at your facility, including the soy beverages, tofu, and yuba, to also be adulterated within the meaning of section 402 (a) (4) of the Act in that they have also been prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth or may have been rendered injurious to health,” the warning letter said.

FDA pointed to conditions and practices that it considers insanitary including:

  • Finished soybean sprouts stored in soiled plastic and metal buckets.

  • Employee boots worn in the sprout hopper were not sanitized.

  • Pipes were dripping condensate on production equipment, the floors below, and paper bags of soybean seeds in the receiving area.

  • Employees handling finished sprouts before packing were observed wearing soiled uniforms and aprons.

  • Employees were handling blue plastic baskets on the packing line with bare and unwashed hands.

  • Floor drains throughout the facility were clogged with soybeans and soybean sprouts.  Water was pooling with organic matter, which fosters the growth of pathogens that were then being splashed onto food and food contact surfaces.

  • Metal sprout pans were being cleaned only with soiled hot water without the use of soap or sanitizer.

  • Water for sprout production was being allowed to flow through white fabric bags that were stained red with rust and filth.

FDA also said no sanitizer was being used to clean the tofu line or in any other observed cleaning operation. Conveyor belts on the tofu production line were heavily stained, pitted, and exhibited a mold-like substance.

Fryers had caked-on product residue and grease residue.

The warning letter also detailed a pest problem at the Newark facility.  FDA inspectors reported seeing a dead mouse, live flies, live roach-like insects, rodent-like excreta pellets that were too numerous to count, rodent nesting materials, and spider webs throughout the building.

Pests were found on and about equipment, including a walk-in refrigerator, and in packaging areas. Global Protein lacked screening to control pests, and there were gaps by the bay doors in the receiving dock.

FDA also found problems with the building itself, saying floors were not sealed, with piping leaking from one floor to another. Inspectors found mold and dirt on walls, damaged and chipped paint, and plastic curtains with dirt and food residue.

Ant and roach spray was being used near the pasteurizer for soymilk and tofu production.

Finally, FDA said Global Protein has to clean up its act when it comes to managing its ground and solid waste. A 30-cubic yard compactor located near the bay door was leaking on to the ground and emitting a foul odor. Piping, wood pallets, and over-grown weeds and shrubs were found about the grounds.

Global Protein was given 15 working days to address the FDA concerns raised by the warning letter.