Prepared foods are all the rage these days, with many consumers paying big bucks to grab take-out dinners at the supermarket. While it can be a time-saver, prepared food can also be a health risk if the store doesn't maintain top-notch sanitation practices.
Whole Foods is currently in hot water with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which recently sent a sternly worded letter to the company, citing numerous sanitation issues at a Whole Foods processing plant near Boston.
The letter charges that during inspections in February, the FDA found that Whole Foods "failed to manufacture, package and store foods under conditions and controls necessary to minimize the potential for growth of microorganisms and contamination."
The letter cites a long list of specific complaints, including:
- On February 10, 2016, you were mixing ready to eat pesto pasta directly under an area in the Assembly Room where condensate from ceiling joints was dripping onto the surface below.
- On February 16, 2016, you were storing an uncovered rack of ready to eat mushroom quesadilla in the same area of the Assembly Room where condensate from ceiling joints was dripping onto the surface below.
- On February 10, 2016, your employee transported uncovered ready to eat vegetables through a doorway, from the Veg Prep Room into the Prepared Veg Cooler. A significant amount of condensate had formed above the doorway and was dripping onto the surface below.
- On February 10, 2016, your employee was cutting chives and beets on a work surface directly underneath a leaking condensate drainage pipe in the Veg Prep Room.
The letter gives Whole Foods 15 days to respond in writing with details of what it plans to do to prevent similar problems in the future.
It's the latest in a string of embarrassing incidents for the upscale market chain. Last year, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs charged Whole Foods with "routinely" overcharging customers, leading to a $500,000 fine.
The company has also been struggling to maintain market share as other supermarket chains, including giants Walmart and Kroger continue to expand their selection of organic foods and fresh produce.
Lots of recalls
Whole Foods has also racked up a lengthy list of recalls lately, including:
Maytag raw milk blue cheese, possibly contaminated with listeria;
Asparagus, Pea and Ricotta salad for a mislabeling error;
Pepperoni Pizza that actually contained pork;
Pecorino aged cheese, possibly contaminated with listeria;
Kimchi products that contain allergens not listed on the label;
Korean barbecue sauce that contains allergens not listed on the label; and
Wild mushroom soup that contains allergens not listed on the label.