In 2011, when applesauce from Snokist was making children sick as far away as North Carolina, USDA Agricultural Marketing Services local inspector Wendy Alguard told Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigators arriving on the scene in Yakima, WA, about the problem. She thought FDA ought to know that Snokist employees often had to scrape mold from bins of older applesauce and mix it in with new product. Snokist at the time was an applesauce supplier to the National School Lunch Program, and FDA quickly determined the company was repackaging applesauce containing potentially dangerous mold. The agency put Snokist on notice that foodborne molds may be hazardous to human health because of their ability to produce toxic metabolites produced from the mold. snokistapplesauce_406x250USDA was embarrassed (again) for its management of the NSLP. Snokist went into bankruptcy and no longer exists. Alguard lost her local job. She soon learned that her continued employment with USDA would require a transfer from Yakima, WA, to somewhere in California. She suspected the reason that she could no longer be employed in Yakima was that USDA was retaliating against her for being a whistleblower due to her reporting the mold problem to FDA. She then sued in federal court for the Eastern District of Washington State. But U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rice did not see it that way. Rice has ruled against Alguard, finding that the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service was overstaffed in the Yakima area, especially after Snokist went out of business, and that the transfer offer to California was proper. Rice said that sufficient evidence exists “that the agency’s motivation to retaliate was relatively weak, and that the evidence showed the agency did not treat plaintiff differently than other similarly situated non-whistleblower employees.”

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  • inspector x

    Definitely not retaliatory. If USDA had in mind to retaliate the reassignment would have been to Mississippi or New Jersey or Missouri….

    Scary thing is this inspector, if she had thought things through would probably have ignored the mold problem so she could keep her job in Yakima. Who did she think she was working for, Snokist or USDA? If she was working for USDA how does simply doing her job inspecting and reporting an adverse finding make her a “whistleblower”? I think this person needs to be let go from USDA. Her priorities are all screwed up and I doubt she can be trusted.

  • Wilhelm

    As a former AMS employee, I believe Alguard! The agency is mostly funded by industry fees and hence industry has a huge influence over what the agency does. Is was proper and fitting that Alguard notify FDA and obviously FDA found reason to take action. Vilsack (Secretary of Ag) and the AMS administrator should be held responsible for this. There are many other similar cases of employees like Alguard being forced out. She should file an IG complaint. AMS is very corrupt!