During a February inspection of a Whole Foods Market food packing and preparation facility in Everett, MA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found a number of what they referred to as “serious violations”, one of which includes conditions that could promote the growth of Listeria.

The violations included:

  • Dirty dishes placed in close proximity to food
  • Condensation dripping from ceiling joints onto food handling surfaces
  • Employees handling food products without first washing hands or changing gloves after cleaning
  • Failure to sanitize food preparation surfaces
  • Sinks with no working hot water
  • A facility worker sprayed an ammonium-based sanitizer on vegetables
  • The presence of Listeria welshimeri--a nonpathogenic bacteria that does not cause foodborne illness, but could indicate the existence of Listeria monocytogenes nearby--confirmed by a swab analysis of food-contact surfaces

FDA outlined their findings in a letter sent to Whole Foods executives on June 8, citing “insanitary conditions whereby they may have been contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health,”

The letter also informed Whole Foods that FDA’s discovery, “demonstrates that conditions exist in and on your equipment that would support the presence and growth of Listeria monocytogenes and indicates that your cleaning and sanitation practices may not be adequate,”

The retailer was advised to implement a better environmental monitoring program to improve cleaning and sanitation operations.

Whole Foods reportedly responded to FDA’s inspection report in March. Global vice president of operations, Ken Meyer, says the retailer was “honestly surprised” by the violations in their facility. Meyer says that each issue identified in FDA’s letter was corrected before FDA sent out last week’s letter.