The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice have blocked the sale of Henry’s Farm bean sprouts which have been recalled several times since 2012 for Listeria. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia entered a consent decree of permanent injunction between the United States and Henry’s Farm Inc. of Woodford, Va. and its owner Soo C. Park, today.
The action, which “prohibits Henry’s Farm, Inc. from receiving, processing, manufacturing, preparing, packing, holding and distributing ready-to-eat soybean and mung-bean sprouts,” comes after the FDA and state health officials found multiple food safety violations at Henry’s Farm, and regulations.
“It’s the FDA’s responsibility to protect consumers from potentially harmful food entering the food supply,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the 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.”
During inspections, the FDA and officials from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Virginia Rapid Response Team collected environmental and product samples that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. They also found unsanitary conditions including a “persistent rodent infestation and dirty food processing equipment.”
Listeria can cause serious illness and death. Symptoms of an infection, which can take up to 70 days after exposure to develop, include stiff neck, headache, muscle soreness and flu-like symptoms that are sometimes preceded by nausea, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Among pregnant women Listeria can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and infection in newborns. In addition to pregnant women, those most at risk for Listeria infections are young children, seniors and those with compromised immune systems.
Sprouts from Henry’s Farm were recalled for Listeria in 2012, 2014 and 2015. Under the consent decree, Henry’s Farm will not be able to process or distribute sprouts until they can demonstrate, by testing through a third-party that the facility and processing equipment are free of Listeria and the unsanitary conditions have been eliminated.
The action against Henry’s Farm comes while two current outbreaks are linked to sprouts produced by other companies, one for Salmonella and one for E.coli. And as an outbreak linked to Dole salads, which have been recalled eight times for Listeria since 201, unfolds.
The current Salmonella outbreak, linked to sprouts produced by Sweetwater Farms in Kansas, has sickened 13 people in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Pennsylvania hospitalizing five of them. The ongoing E.coli outbreak, linked to sprouts produced by Jack and the Green Sprouts of River Falls, Wis., has sickened nine people in Minnesota and Wisconsin hospitalizing two.
Sprouts are a common source of food poisoning and outbreaks. They have been recalled an average of four times a year since 2012. And since 2006, there have been more than 40 outbreaks linked to sprouts contaminated with Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that the safest way to consume sprouts is to cook them to 160°F as measured by a food thermometer.