F.D.A. investigation outlines problems at Eggo plant

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration has given Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co. 15 days to respond to a number of sanitation violations in connection with Listeria monocytogenes contamination of Eggo buttermilk waffles at its Atlanta facility.

In a warning letter dated Jan. 27 and posted on the F.D.A. web site Feb. 16, the F.D.A. provided details of an Oct. 22-29 inspection at Kellogg’s Atlanta facility following the finding by the Georgia Department of Agriculture in late August that led to the recall of two products within its Eggo brand — Cinnamon Toast waffles and Toaster Swirlz. None of the Buttermilk product was shipped into the marketplace.

According to the F.D.A., the agency’s investigators observed employees in the mixing room using high pressure water to clean equipment that splashed near exposed raw materials. Inspectors also observed an uncovered cart containing trash located within close proximity of exposed raw materials in the mixing room, as well as observed condensate and drippage in the waffle production area above lines that were transporting exposed products.

Other sanitation violations noted in the F.D.A. report included a maintenance employee not wearing gloves while touching exposed finished product and an employee touching his nose and moustache, after washing his hands, and not using sanitizer or re-washing his hands before returning to the work area.

“We acknowledge receipt of your response (updated Nov. 18, 2009) in response to F.D.A.’s positive L. monocytogenes environmental swabs,” the F.D.A. wrote in the warning letter. “Although your response lists a number of corrective actions directly associated with the positive test results, including sanitizing certain equipment and limiting employee access to certain processing areas, it is essential to identify all areas of your facility where L. monocytogenes is able to grow and survive (niche areas) and to take such corrective actions as necessary to control the organism. In addition, F.D.A. recommends that your sanitation controls include effective environmental monitoring programs designed to identify and eliminate and/or control pathogens such as L. monocytogenes in and on surfaces and areas in the facility where contamination could result in food product contamination. Finally, your response does not address the C.G.M.P. deviations identified in this letter.

“This letter is not intended to be an all-inclusive list of violations that may exist at your facility. You are responsible for ensuring that your processing plant operates in compliance with the Act and applicable regulations. You should take prompt action to correct these violations. We may take further action if you do not promptly correct these violations. For instance, we may take further action to seize your product(s) and/or enjoin your firm from operating.”

“The safety of our foods is of utmost importance to Kellogg Co.,” said Kris Charles, a spokesperson with Kellogg. “While the F.D.A. letter was filed publicly today, the situation described in the letter relates to inspections conducted in October after the plant was closed for enhanced cleaning and the flood in Atlanta that affected our facility. Before opening the facility, we worked cooperatively with both the agency and the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and we completed comprehensive testing and monitoring. We have made a variety of enhancements in our facility, and have fully addressed all of the observations in the letter. We will be filing our response with the F.D.A. to this effect shortly.”

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