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Food seized at warehouse overrun with rodents – FDA orders seizure of Asian food products of Goodworld Trading Co. in New York City – Investigators’ Reports

Food seized at warehouse overrun with rodents – FDA orders seizure of Asian food products of Goodworld Trading Co. in New York City – Investigators’ Reports – Brief Article

Carol Lewis

More than 200 kinds of Oriental food products with a retail value of $280,000 were seized last January at a New York City warehouse because of rodent contamination.

At FDA’s request, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York issued a seizure warrant Jan. 26, 1998, for the food–about 5,488 cases of imported rice cakes, candies, dried vegetables, and other assorted products–after the food’s owner and distributor, Yick Cheung Corp., doing business as Goodworld Trading Co., refused to rid the Brooklyn warehouse of rodents.

“A seizure can give substantial motivation to those responsible for cleaning up their act,” said Lillian Aveta, a compliance officer in FDA’s New York district office. “They want to get their facility back into business.”

Goodworld’s poor sanitary practices were first identified in February 1995 when, as part of a crackdown on misbranded products, New York state authorities inspected the storage facility. In addition to sanitation violations, state chemists detected staphylococcal bacteria in mushrooms Goodworld had for sale. The state seized more than 1,000 cases of mushrooms and cited Goodworld for sanitation violations.

Subsequent inspections later that year found continuing sanitation problems and resulted in further seizures and fines of more than $1,500.

But the violations continued. As part of a routine schedule, FDA inspected Goodworld in October. In repeated visits through December, FDA investigators Cornelius Gallagher, Peter Caparelli, Kwong Lee, and Donald Ullstrom observed a dog roaming freely within the food storage area, fresh rodent pellets “too numerous to count” throughout the walk-in refrigerator, cases of food that looked like they had been gnawed, and gnawed holes through the base of the north and west walls of the warehouse. Food samples collected and later analyzed by FDA indicated rodent contamination.

Company president Wing Chan told FDA that garbage was picked up once weekly and that the company acted as its own exterminator, using a BB gun and placing unenclosed rodenticide on the floor throughout the warehouse.

On Nov. 7, FDA investigators, along with FDA chemist Nariman Ayyad, met New York state inspector Sonia Morales at the warehouse. New York state is under contract with FDA to assist with some inspections. Morales placed all food lots sampled by FDA under state embargo to ensure that the food items in question would not be distributed while the seizure was being processed.

At a Dec. 3, follow-up inspection, agency investigators noted that previously documented building deficiencies had not been corrected. Company president Chan told FDA that he rented the warehouse from the owner who, he said, was looking to sell the property. He also said that if the property was not sold within six months, he “may make the building corrections” himself. Until then, he said, he intended to leave the building deficiencies “as is” for financial reasons, Aveta said.

The agency can order a warrant for mass seizure based on six violative lots of food, Aveta said. She added that Goodworld was in violation with a total of nine lots of food.

The seizure on Jan. 26, 1998, only affected products in soft packaging because other types of containers used had not been found to be contaminated.

At press time, the company was allowed to distribute only products packaged in rigid containers, such as metal and hard plastic, as well as in soft packages received after the seizure date.

COPYRIGHT 1998 U.S. Government Printing Office

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