A warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration citing unsanitary conditions at a Tennessee sprout growing facility wasn’t sent to the grower until 19 weeks after initial inspections in February.
The warning sent to International Specialty Supply Holding Inc., Cookeville, Tenn., included a number of food safety problems such as dripping condensation, dust, pooling water on the floor, dead bugs and dirty restrooms.
According to the FDA’s warning, inspectors visited the growing operation five times in February, the first on Feb. 8 and the last on Feb. 28. The warning letter is dated June 12. FDA officials did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
Raymond Jones, general manager for ISS, said the citation is the first in the 33 years of operation at the growing facility. He said “every issue noted in the FDA warning letter has been corrected and several documented audits confirm this.”
“During the inspection, several areas in the facility were not up to our internal or the FDA’s standards and we take full responsibility for the condition of our facility at the time of the inspection,” Jones said.
“Since the inspection (we) have made many changes, including organizational structure and delegation of duties. This inspection was a humbling experience, but the company has used this as a catalyst for change and now has accountability at all levels of the organization and the results are short of amazing.”
The growing operation is just part of the International Specialty Supply operation. ISS also has a sprout seed operation that is physically separated from the growing operation, said Bob Rust, chief executive officer. Rust is known in the industry for his work in developing sprout safety procedures.
Rust is active with the International Sprout Growers Association and his sprout seed screening methods have been referenced and recommended in recent years by the FDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture, California Department of Health, the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and international organizations, including the World Health Organization.