Whole Foods Market Warned by FDA Over Food Safety Violations

By Philip Trapp on Jun 15, 2016 05:29 PM EDT

Whole Foods Market is on the defensive this week after receiving a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration concerning their infractions of food safety rules. An inspection by the federal agency earlier this year identified "serious violations" at the company's food preparation facility in Massachusetts.

The Boston-area plant makes ready-to-eat products distributed to the supermarket chain's locations across the Northeast. Federal regulators identified various failures in the manufacture, packaging and storage of foods used to minimize potential contamination and growth of microorganisms at the February examination.

Whole Foods has until the end of the month to rectify the cited issues. One area of negligence addressed in the letter, dated June 8, concerns condensation from ceiling joints leaking onto items like pasta and vegetables below. Whole Foods' corporate leadership recently released a statement expressing their shock at the admonition:

"We were honestly surprised," said Ken Meyer, executive vice president of operations for Whole Foods Market. "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 initially responded to the FDA in March. However, the agency deemed that reply unacceptable, stating in its warning letter that their "response includes retraining of employees as a corrective action for most of the observed violations but ... failed to mention adequate supervision over your specialized food processing."

This is not the first time the company has come under public scrutiny. The grocer, marketed as "America's Healthiest Grocery Store," previously faced backlash regarding employee cutbacks. Last fall, Whole Foods eliminated 1,500 jobs within the company as a countermeasure to slowing sales and accusations of overcharging.

Whole Foods has also weathered health scares before. Earlier this year, the chain recalled certain cheese products due to a possible risk of listeria contamination -- a hot-button issue after Blue Bell Ice Cream's recent listeria outbreak scandal. Last year, Blue Bell recalled all products and shut down production after three people died due to the outbreak.

Stock in Whole Foods continued to fall Wednesday morning on account of the current food safety dilemma. The company reportedly has 15 days to address the FDA's issued violations from the June 8 date of the warning letter.

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