Fault found in baby-food plant: Factory founder made improvements at Sanger site after state's criticism


Source of Article: http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/2014222/


Tue. November 11, 2008; Posted: 12:07 PM

Nov 11, 2008 (The Fresno Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX)


State health inspectors have issued a report that criticizes a local organic baby-food processing plant for having an unsanitary kitchen and failing to take "effective measures" to make sure broken glass does not get into its products but found that allegations of food-safety violations by two former top managers were not substantiated.

The report comes after a two-month investigation into Sanger-based Initiative Foods by the California Department of Public Health.

Jocelyn Mailly, the former quality manager and plant manager, and John Mulvaney Jr., a company co-founder and former vice president of operations, filed lawsuits in Fresno County Superior Court last spring saying they were fired for raising food-safety concerns.

In a deposition in April, Mailly said that John Ypma, the company's founder and president, approved the use of moldy sweet potatoes that were full of maggots and failed to make repairs to a machine that left pieces of glass in baby food.

Initiative Foods sells its baby food at Vons, Safeway, Whole Foods and other stores.

The department's report concluded that there was not enough evidence to substantiate the allegations in the lawsuits.

Neither Mailly nor Mulvaney was interviewed as part of the department's investigation.

But the department issued five violation notices, including one that said the company has "failed to take effective measures to protect against the inclusion of extraneous material in food" -- specifically, broken pieces of glass.

Ypma has denied ever using rotten products. He said he has taken steps to ensure that glass does not get into food.

"The health and safety of the babies and moms who use our products are our highest priority -- bar none," he said Monday. "Our processing standards are the highest in the industry."

But Ypma said he will take the department's report seriously. He said his company already has made improvements in response to the report, including changing how it responds when glass jars break on the production line.

The violations issued by the department are essentially warnings and the company will not be penalized, department spokesman Ralph Montano said.

In 2006, a Texas-based grocery chain was forced to recall thousands of cases of Initiative Foods' baby food after receiving complaints from customers who found glass in their baby food.

Mailly said she had tried to warn Ypma that the machine the company used at the time to clean empty glass jars was malfunctioning and that pieces of glass could end up in jars that were later filled with baby food.

Ypma said the recall was an isolated incident. He made repairs to many of the plant's machines after the recall.

The department's report also noted "an abundance of product spillage" in kitchen areas.

Ypma said his company will do a better job of keeping the kitchen clean.

Finally, the report said that water was allowed to pool on the floor in some parts of the plant, "which may contribute to the contamination of [the] product due to possible foot-borne filth."

Ypma said he would make any needed repairs.



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