Thursday’s scheduled hearing before U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel over the future of a Chicago soy products manufacturer was canceled because the judge had already signed the consent decree preventing Paul and Julia Trinh from getting back into the food business unless they comply with a long list of conditions. The federal judge for the Northern District of Illinois signed the consent decree of permanent injunction on April 22 against the Trinhs and their company, Wholesome Soy Products. The Trinhs and their attorneys signed the document on April 5, removing any need for yesterday’s hearing. The consent decree prohibits Wholesome Soy Products from receiving, processing, manufacturing, preparing, packing, holding and distributing ready-to-eat mung bean and soybean sprouts unless certain conditions are met. Before closing its doors last November, the soy business sold products to both wholesale distributors and retail stores in Illinois. Soybean_Sprouts_406x250Melinda K. Plaisier, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), supported the consent decree as “a first step in the right direction for this company.” “It is FDA’s responsibility to ensure that appropriate action is taken when we conduct inspections and find results that could put consumers at risk,” Plaisier added. The final court action, except for the judge maintaining jurisdiction for enforcement purposes, follows a combined state and federal investigation that included FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Department of Health, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Troubles began for the soy products company last August when a routine FDA inspection of the Chicago plant took environmental samples that returned positive test results for the sometimes deadly Listeria monocytogenes. Wholesome Soy Products temporarily suspended production and issued a recall on Aug. 28, 2014, during which time the plant was cleaned and sanitized and an independent consultant was brought on board. The company resumed operations on Sept. 15, 2014. Later that month, however, Wholesome Soy Products was linked to a outbreak of four L. monocytogenes cases in Illinois and one in Michigan. All five of those patients were hospitalized and two died. The follow-up FDA inspection found that Listeria remained in the facility, and the agency determined that sprouts could not be safely manufactured by the company in that environment. Wholesome Soy Products shut down again in November and, with overnight by the Illinois Department of Health, all inventory was destroyed. The now-binding agreement outlines just what the company and the Trinhs would have to do if they ever want to resume operations. The Trinhs neither admitted nor denied any responsibility for the Listeria outbreak, but they did accept about 20 pages of conditions they must follow if they want to get back into the food business. Included is a 90-day advance notice requirement to FDA and an agreement to pay user fees for all start-up costs that would be incurred by the agency, including $89.35 per hour for inspection work and $107.09 per hour for analytical or review activity. The now-closed Wholesome Soy Products facility is located at 1150 W. 40th St. in Chicago.