A listeria strain that took up residence at Louisiana’s Freshy Foods in 2013 and remains there to this day, along with multiple instances where its ready-to-eat sandwiches were poisoned with the same pathogen, spurred government action Friday.

Attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Consumer Protection Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of the U.S. Circuit Court in Louisiana filed a civil complaint, seeking to put Freshy Foods out of business.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked Freshy Foods to recall products after the most recent discovery of the contamination. The company declined to do so.

If a federal judge agrees with prosecutors, Freshy Foods’ co-owners Floyd D. James and Ida M. James and their business associates would be ordered to “cease receiving, preparing, manufacturing, processing, packing, labeling, holding, and/or distributing food at or from the facility or at any other location(s) at or from which defendants, now or in the future, receive, prepare, manufacture, process, pack, label, hold, and/or distribute food, unless and until defendants bring their operations into compliance with the Act and applicable regulations, to FDA’s satisfaction.”

Government attorneys are asking for the statutory injunction under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). They want the court to permanently enjoin and restrain Freshy Foods LLC, Floyd D. James, and Ida M. James.

The Freshy Foods facility in question is at 508 Time Saver Ave., Elmwood, LA. The company’s registered address with the Louisiana Secretary of State is 365 Canal St., Suite 1470, New Orleans.

Floyd D. James is the chief executive officer, co-owner and registered agent of Freshy Foods. The government complaint says he is responsible for the company’s overall operations, including receiving, production, and distribution. He also shares responsibility in detecting, preventing, and correcting violative conditions. He works out of the Elmwood facility.

Ida M. James is the president and co-owner of Freshy Foods. She is responsible for the company’s financing, human resources, and production plans, She also shares responsibility in detecting, preventing, and correcting violative conditions. She also works out the Elmwood facility.

Freshy Foods is a manufacturer and distributor of refrigerated, ready-to-eat (RTE) food, including, but not limited to, sandwiches, wraps, salads, fruit cups and snack cups. Ready-to-eat foods fall under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration.

The government says Freshy Foods’ ready-to-eat foods are known to have been distributed across state lines, including in Mississippi and Florida. Freshy Foods has also used tuna imported from Thailand in ready-to-eat sandwiches, according to the federal complaint.

The Freshy Foods facility last underwent FDA inspection July 17-21, 2017. Additional samples of the resident strain of Listeria monocytogenes were collected from the facility. FDA found the food produced was adulerated, including sanchwiches, fruit and snack cups.

Government attorneys say state and federal agencies have found Freshy Foods sandwiches or facility contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes on at least six different occasions going back to 2012.

The Louisiana company has not yet responded to the June 22 civil complaint. The case has been assigned to federal Judge Jane Margaret Triche Milazzo and Magistrate Judge Michael B. North. 

If the case proceeds to trial, the government is required to prove its allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. Civil complaints brought by the government in food safety cases often end with a Consent Decree favoring the agency.

“We have an obligation to make sure that foods are safe for people to consumer,” says Melinda K. Plaisier, FDA’’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs. 

“The conditions that this company was holding ready-to-eat food in were unacceptable. FDA investigators repeatedly found Listeria monocytogenes at Freshy Foods’ facility, and the company should stop operations until they can demonstrate to the FDA that their products ares safe.”

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