The federal government has dropped the hammer on a 64-year old Portland mung bean sprout operation that distributed in Oregon and Washington.

At the behest of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), government attorneys persuaded the U.S. District Court for Oregon to issue a permanent injunction against Shanghai Company Inc. and owners David J. Louie and Richard Lee.

The order, signed this month, shuts down the sprout business unless and until the defendants can bring it back into compliance with federal food safety regulations, entirely to FDA’s satisfaction. If FDA is not satisfied, Shanghai has no appeal.

For now, the federal court has ordered everyone associated with Shanghai to “cease, directly or indirectly, receiving, processing, manufacturing, preparing, packaging, holding, and distributing any article of food” at the existing site, or any other location.

Louie, Lee and anyone working with the Shanghai Company are also enjoined from doing anything that would cause food to be considered adulterated, under the law, and from putting adulterated food into interstate commerce.

Located at 2800 S.E. Division St. in Portland, the Shanghai Company has not been able to shake its food safety problems, according to the complaint. Listeria contamination of its ready-to-eat bean sprouts and inside its facility has been the most serious problem.  

The Portland business was getting it seeds from Jilin, China, then growing and distributing sprouts to retailers in the two Northwest states.

Its most recent recall, issued last Nov. 24, was of mung bean sprouts in clear 9 oz. and 5 lb. bags found to be contaminated with Listeria.  Its labels said the sprouts were “grown in pure well water” with no preservatives.

Bean sprouts are often consumed raw, and pathogens such as Listeria, Salmonella and E. coli are associated with sprouts because they can grow in wet areas where processing and and packaging is done. The Listeria bacterium, government lawyers said in the complaint, poses a particular threat to pregnant women, fetuses and newborns. 

The complaint said Listeria has been found inside the Shanghai Company on multiple occasions, sometimes turning up positive test results on all samples taken. In addition, FDA and Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) inspections have logged numerous violations of sanitation practices, including a water supply problem, and the facility has no pest control.

The owners repeatedly failed to respond to FDA’s warnings that the Listeria contamination had to be eliminated from the facility, the federal government charged.

As for the future, the court gave the company a roadmap for getting back in business. To begin, it must hire a food safety and/or sanitation expert with no family or financial ties to the company. 

The outside expert then has to develop a plan taking into account all the FDA and ODA violations, with job one being eliminating the Listeria from the facility. The expert should also have experience with water and sewer systems, the court stated.

FDA sign-off on sanitation control and food safety plan is required before Shanghai can even think about getting back in business. The plan must be made available in the native languages of all the employees.

All food now held at the facility must be destroyed under FDA supervision, the court ordered.

In addition to paying all of FDA’s costs associated with reopening, Shanghai must also pay the government’s attorney fees and court costs associated with the permanent injunction.

If it does get up and running, Shanghai must go through an inspection and audit every six months for the first three years.

The order was signed by Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta.