A federal court ordered Canton Foods to immediately stop operations after regulators found ongoing unsanitary conditions at its Minneapolis plant, including rodent excrement and a black mold-like substance on equipment.
Canton Foods, incorporated under the name Kwong Tung Foods Inc., is a family-owned company that has processed and distributed rice and wheat noodles, mung beans and soybean sprouts for more than 70 years. Its facility, located in the Standish neighborhood of south Minneapolis, was found on repeated visits to violate federal food safety laws.
The U.S. District Court for the Minnesota District late last week issued an injunction sought by the Justice Department on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration. In its complaint, the FDA said the company's president and owner, Vieta "Victor" Wang, was given a warning letter and participated in meetings with FDA regulators following the most recent violations that were discovered on inspection visits in 2014 and 2015.
Despite these meetings and others with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the company and its leaders "failed to take adequate corrective actions to ensure the safety of their food," the FDA said in a statement.
The company did not return calls for comment Wednesday.
Canton Foods first received a federal warning letter in April 2015. In that document, safety inspectors noted several violations, such as finding beetle-like insects on machines and in buckets of noodles. The inspection also noted the company's failure to properly clean the equipment — which was "encrusted with old product buildup" — or safeguard against rodent infestation. In addition, the warning letter said employees didn't wear clean outerwear and used the same pair of gloves to handle different kinds of food.
"When a company does not address violations and sanitary protocols are being neglected, it poses potentially hazardous conditions," Melinda Plaisier, the FDA's associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in a statement. "The FDA is taking the necessary actions to protect consumers and the U.S. food supply."
The court forbid the company from directly or indirectly operating, including "receiving, processing, manufacturing, preparing, packing, holding, and/or distributing any article of food at or from its facility." If and when it wants resume operations, the court said the company must hire an independent food safety expert to verify it has implemented fixes to the problems identified by the FDA, hire an independent lab to test of its processes and products and train its employees on sanitary food handling techniques.
No illnesses have been reported in connection with the facility's conditions.