After a surprise inspection to Whole Foods food preparation headquarters in Massachusetts, the grocery giant has received a warning letter from the FDA about serious health violation and sanitation issues after finding listeria on multiple food contact surfaces.
The letter, dated June 8, referred to a visit to the facilities in February where inspectors found food, including pesto pasta, mushroom quesadillas, egg salad, and couscous, in area where condensation was leaking from ceiling fans and vents. The report also cited failure sanitize food prep areas, sinks without hot water for hand-washing, and a worker spraying ammonium sanitizer on leafy greens.
“We were honestly surprised," Ken Meyer, executive vice president of operations for Whole Foods Market, said in a statement. "We've been in close contact with the FDA, opened our doors to inspectors regularly since February and worked with them to address every issue brought to our attention."
Whole Foods responded to the initial findings of the inspection in March, but according to NBC News, the FDA found its response unacceptable.
“Your response includes retraining of employees as a corrective action for most of the observed violations but you failed to mention adequate supervision over your specialized food processing operations and how retraining will ensure sustained compliance," the FDA said in the warning letter. "We do not consider your response acceptable because you failed to provide documentation for our review, which demonstrates that all your noted corrective actions have been effectively implemented."
The number of recalls issued by Whole Foods have increased in recent years. Around the time of the inspection, pecorino cheese was recalled for listeria and in March, blue cheese was recalled for similar pathogens.