Given repeated FDA violations in 2014, 2013, 2011 and 2010 (2012 was a great year!), Fong Kee has agreed to shut down their Bayview factory operations indefinitely, or until the facility is deemed acceptable by the FDA, according to Food Quality News.
The full complaint is below, but here are some highlights:
“Defendants failed to take effective measures to exclude pests from the processing areas and protect the food on the premises from being contaminated by pests … There were also approximately 20 insects flying around the firm’s tofu processing area, approximately 25 insects flying outside the cooler door, and pigeons sitting outside on top of plastic-wrapped raw soybean pallets.” (18a)
“…condensation from the ceiling dripped onto the ready-to-eat bulk tofu and the stainless steel packing table, and there was apparent mold near this condensation.” (18d)
“Defendants’ bulk fried tofu balls, which are packaged in unlabeled plastic bags, fail to declare any ingredients” (19d)
Tofu should be made fun of, as Justin Timberlake did on Saturday (Night Live).
But not when tofu has the potential to make people barf.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has revoked the food processing license of Chu Minh Corp., which produces tofu and other soy products, after several inspections found on-going sanitation problems with the Seattle business.
In addition to revoking the company’s license to process food, WSDA also assessed a civil penalty of $17,800 against the company and required all product at the facility to be destroyed.
Notices about the license revocation have been sent to all retail outlets and restaurants that have purchased or carry Chu Minh products. As a result of these actions, the company cannot process any food at this location. Chu Minh has 10 days to appeal and request agency reconsideration of the order, but it cannot operate as a food processing operation during that appeal period.
The New York City Health Department is investigating one confirmed and one suspect case of botulism amongst Chinese-speaking Queens residents who had recently purchased unrefrigerated fresh bulk tofu from the same store in Flushing.
This kind of tofu, commonly sold in an open, water-filled bin, is highly suspected to be the source of these cases; however it has not yet been confirmed.
WABC reports the tofu was not made at this store, and its source is still under investigation.
As the investigation continues, the Health Department is advising all individuals to discard all fresh bulk tofu purchased from any New York City store that has been kept at room temperature at the time of purchase.
The Health Department is also warning consumers to throw away tofu that has not been stored in a refrigerator at home.
Cooking this type of tofu is not a definite safeguard against botulism; the organism’s spores can still remain in the tofu and, if the tofu is improperly handled, the spores can produce a toxin that causes illness.
New York City has seen only one other case of foodborne botulism in the past 15 years.
Taiwan has seen eight botulinum poisoning cases involving 11 people since April. One person was killed, five remain hospitalized and five others have been discharged from hospitals after treatment.
The Department of Health said three soybean product factories use a sterilized vacuum packaging process, and that only tofu products that are thoroughly sterilized before being vacuum-packed should be stored or displayed in room temperature environments.
Products from factories that do not properly sterilize their dried tofu should be refrigerated until eating, health officials said.