Hocean Food Corporation, located across the 110 from Dodger Stadium, has long been a favorite source of rice noodles for Los Angeles.
In an April 13 warning letter to Jim Lee, owner of the rice noodle-processing establishment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it found serious violations inside the facility during a late 2010 inspection.
Between last Nov. 29 and Dec. 1, FDA inspected the noodle manufacturer for compliance with the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations and Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations.
FDA found Hocean’s rolled rice noodles with shrimp, rolled rice noodles without shrimp, and pure rice noodles all to be adulterated because they had been prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions.
Hocean does not have seafood HACCP plan for its rice noodles with shrimp. A hand-written one-page document submitted last Dec.8 was not sufficient, the warning letter says.
Among the sanitation issues turned up in the inspection were:
— Cooking ladles with rough, discolored welds that come into contact with food that could not be cleaned adequately.
— White cloth with frayed discolored edges came into contact with the rice noodles as cooked rice left the steam tunnels.
— Numerous drinking cups were located over a processing room hand washing sink, which had a drink dispenser located next to it.
— Personal food items were being consumed in the production area during manufacturing.
— An ingredient, Sodium Benzoate, used in rice noodles was stored in a mislabeled container.
— Three chemical products were also not properly identified and five were not stored properly throughout the processing area, including next to food and utensils.
The warning letter also discloses the destruction of 78 100-pound bags of white rice because of bird feces discovered during the inspection. The filth was “too numerous to count,” according to the inspection.
The LA noodle maker has told FDA those sanitation deficiencies have been corrected, but the agency is not satisfied because no verification has been provided. Hocean must provide better sanitation control records, it says.
FDA said Hocean’s current production procedures might be contributing to the growth of microorganisms and the contamination of food. The noodle business is not taking steps to clean and sanitize equipment, it charged.
Also, FDA said the company’s practice of holding and distributing hot noodles without cooling may lead to microbial growth.
Finally, the warning letter said Hocean’s products were misbranded for failing to list trans-fat and sodium content and do not provide the same information in the two languages used on labels.