“Companies have a responsibility to ensure that the food they produce is safe to eat and is made in accordance with federal law,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “When a company continues to produce food that presents a risk for consumers, the FDA will take whatever steps necessary to protect public health.”

Food Safety News reported yesterday that Alfred Louie, Inc., in Bakersfield, CA, has agreed to the terms of a court order not to process or distribute food until it cleans up the unsanitary conditions found by U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors.

The company receives, processes, manufactures, prepares, packs, holds and distributes ready-to-eat mung bean and soybean sprouts and wheat flour noodles. The company also packs and distributes various dry, refrigerated and frozen food items, such as flour, nuts, rice, tea and spices received from other manufacturers.

FDA inspections since 2000 have documented numerous deficiencies in Alfred Louie’s processing facility, and laboratory testing by FDA in April and May 2013 revealed Listeria monocytogenes in sprouts and in the company’s facility. FDA repeatedly advised the company and its owners, Gordon and Victor Louie, of the unsanitary conditions at the facility. Under the consent decree approved by Judge Garland E. Burrell, Jr., of the Eastern District of California, the defendants cannot process or distribute food until they demonstrate that their facility and processing equipment are suitable to prevent contamination in the food that they process, prepare, store and handle.

The Packer reported earlier this year that the FDA in a Feb. 21 warning letter to Alfred Louie Inc., Bakersfield, Calif., the FDA cited multiple problems with sanitation found during an inspection of its sprout packing operation Sept. 19-Oct. 10. The letter to owner Gordon Louie said some issues had been resolved, but said others still needed to be addressed.

The FDA also wants Louie to provide documentation showing what he has done to correct problems.

“I’m really confused about why they sent this warning letter,” Louie said Feb. 25. “We did 85% of what they wanted at the time. I guess they want photos or something.”

The warning letter mentioned numerous sanitary concerns, including employees eating and packing sprouts with bare hands, failure to clean machines and food contact surfaces between mung bean sprout and soybean sprout packing, standing water on the floors, rodent gnaw holes and dropping, live flies and a dead mouse in the packing and storage areas, and condensation dripping on to exposed produce.