FDA: Athens food warehouse infested with rats

Federal authorities seized crackers, cookies and potato chips valued at $859,000 that were stored in a rat-infested warehouse in Athens, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

The snack food seized at the Mid-State Services Inc. warehouse on Thursday was to have been distributed to jails and prison around the Southeast. Oscar Garrison, assistant commissioner for consumer protection with the state Department of Agriculture, said the agency notified six prisons in Georgia that had received the snacks for vending machines and inmate commissaries to reclaim the snacks.

The raid was led by federal authorities. The state was involved because of its power to issue a “stop sale” order.

“You had contaminated products going to consumers,” Garrison told WSB radio.

FDA investigators and U.S. marshals found at the warehouse July 14-21 “widespread active rodent infestation both inside and outside the facility,” according to the complaint that was the basis for the raid.

Federal investigators reported they found 14 live rodents and seven dead ones, 23 gnaw holes on food containers, rodent droppings inside food containers, four rodent nests and numerous rodent pellets on and around food packages. Investigators also found structural defects that made it easy for rodents to get inside the warehouse.

“The FDA took this action because the company failed to provide adequate safeguards to ensure that products they produce or hold for sale remain free of contamination,” Michael Chappell, acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in a written statement..

A message left with the company’s vice president Thursday was not returned.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture put a “stop sale” order in place for the warehouse on July 15. The FDA said the company destroyed some of the food four days later but a significant amount of food remained. Then the company did not respond to a list of violations the FDA issued July 21.