Eight visits by two Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in late April revealed inadequate pathogen controls and cleanliness practices at the company’s production facility at 909 Michigan Ave. in Columbus, OH. The FDA inspections occurred between April 20-30 during the time the company announced the recall of all of its products after Listeria monocytogenes was found in two different flavors of its ice cream. Listeria was later found on the spout of a one machine after Jeni’s completed swab testing of its production kitchen. Jeni's ice creamAccording to the latest FDA inspection report, posted May 21 in response to media requests, Jeni’s had no program for environmental testing, workers on the evening shift did not follow sanitation protocols, there was no sanitizer used with towels to wipe down food-contact surfaces, the floor was not sanitized, there was visible residue on power outlet boxes and plastic light covers, and employees who worked outside in the company garden had no cross-contamination procedures to follow when they returned to the production facility. The inspection report also stated that the company’s director of operations and its regulatory manager “demonstrated a lack of competency” by not instituting an environmental sampling and testing program and not requiring employees to follow standard safety procedures. There was a failure “to provide sufficient space for placement of equipment and storage of materials as necessary for the maintenance of sanitary operations and the production of safe food,” the inspectors noted. Jeni’s CEO John Lowe said all of the agency’s concerns listed on the April 2015 inspection report had been fixed by May 11 during the temporary shutdown of the Columbus plant, and that the company had spent more than $200,000 in reconfiguring the production kitchen to limit the possibility of pathogen contamination. “We dove in and made darn sure we fixed all of their concerns, and we brought in outside experts to help us find other areas of improvement to create a world class, safe environment for making our ice creams,” Lowe said. In a May 8 update, FDA stated there had been no illnesses linked to consumption of Jeni’s products. The company destroyed 535,000 pounds of its ice cream following the recall and has cleaned its production facility, installed new equipment and moved the processing of raw ingredients to another site. FDA also posted an earlier inspection report from visits made to the company’s previous production facility in June 2008. That report indicated that workers were not observing personal cleanliness procedures by not adequately covering hair and beards, and that there were facility problems such as evidence of rodents and insect activity, plumbing issues, and holes and gaps in a wall and a garage door. Lowe said those findings had been addressed before the 2008 report was issued. He also noted that FDA had inspected the company’s current production kitchen in 2013 and 2014 but had not released those reports. “The 2014 FDA inspection revealed zero issues of concern. The 2013 FDA inspection report revealed only a concern that there was build up of ice under a fan in our large freezer,” he said. Lowe also said in a May 6 update that the company will never know exactly how the bacteria got into the equipment. Listeria is notoriously hard to get rid of once it establishes itself in a food production environment, plus the bacteria can survive and grow in cold temperatures. “We’ll never be 100% certain how Listeria got onto the machine. Our job now is to rework our production kitchen into a facility that provides the best defenses against any contamination, and we have enlisted some of the world’s top food safety experts to help in that effort,” he said. The company is reopening most of its 21 scoop shops on Friday night, May 22, and plans to slowly ramp back up to full production over the summer.