Organic Tofu Company cited for Filthy Conditions

Posted on July 25, 2011 by

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Editor’s note: Frequently we get asked if organic foods are safer to eat than non-organic foods. The increasing popularity of organic products and success of grocers like Whole Foods overwhelming suggests yes they are. US Food Safety’s answer is always cautious. FDA does not have a set standard for Organic. The National Organic Standards Board Definition of “Organic” is:

‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.

Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water.

Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.”

Below are excerpts of an FDA Warning letter to Sogo Foods of California, an organic tofu company. Notice there is no mention of Organic. The letter revealed that not only were the Tofu products misbranded but the products were prepared, packed or held under unsanitary conditions, may have become contaminated with filth, and may have been rendered injurious to human heath in the fourth quarter 2010.

Here are the issues:

· Labels on the Organic Sweetened Soy Bean Drink and Plain Pressed Tofu products were misbranded because a major food allergen, soy, is not declared on package labels.

· The Organic Sweetened Soy Bean Drink and Plain Pressed Tofu claim “High Protein” and “Low Calorie” and are below legal standards for both requirements.

· During the inspection, one of the firm’s employees was observed adding sugar to the Organic Sweetened Soy Bean Drink product; however, the finished product label does not declare sugar as an ingredient.

FDA also found significant violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations for food such as:

· An employee placed a strainer directly onto the production floor in close proximity to a floor drain and proceeded to use the strainer for filtering the liquid from a bucket of soybeans while sitting on the floor. The employee next picked up the strainer allowing the liquid to be filtered off, poured the remaining soybeans into a hopper, and placed the bottom of the strainer directly on top of the soybeans. The company uses these soybeans as a main ingredient in the soy milk and tofu products.

· FDA inspectors observed the appearance of leftover tofu matter in one of the holes of the tofu press boards. This observation was made after cleaning had been performed.

· FDA investigators observed employees’ soiled aprons directly touching the food and food contact surfaces while the employees were handling in-process tofu.

· The employees wore those same aprons in between tasks of performing sanitation duties, touching trash receptacles, and handling in-process product.

· One employee had just taken out the trash, used only water without soap or sanitizer to clean their hands, and proceeded to directly handle processed tofu skins with bare hands.

· Mold-like growth on the ceiling and employees not wearing hairnets were also noted.

FDA acknowledged that the company has responded to some of the violations but not all to satisfy the FDA.

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