The agency found a number of safety issues at the plant which raised the possibility of contamination of the company’s food products, according to the FDA.
The consent decree of permanent injunction was entered by the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
Green Hope must stop operations until the FDA approves the steps taken to bring its operations into full compliance and must be re-inspected before it is allowed to re-open.
Steps to re-open
It must hire an independent expert to develop a written sanitation control program and an employee training program, and assign an employee to implement and maintain the sanitation control program.
The firm must also make structural repairs to its facility necessary to protect against contamination of raw ingredients, in-process and finished articles of food, containers and packaging materials.
The company manufactures and sells ready-to-eat (RTE) organic tofu and soy milk products to businesses in Michigan and Minnesota, including organic supermarket chains.
FDA said inspections since 2009 found that Green Hope did not store food properly, did not address employee cleanliness issues, permitted waste water to come into contact with tofu during processing and failed to clean all food-contact surfaces and equipment.
In a warning letter sent to the firm in May 2011 the FDA said inspections found “serious violations”.
“On at least three occasions, two employees used their mouths and plastic hoses to siphon water from a 35-gallon container, which was being used as a weight on top of tofu racks during the pressing operation. Water from that same container was overflowing and leaking down onto the uncovered racks of ready to-eat tofu below,” said one violation in the letter.
Melinda K. Plaisier, acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said: “When foods are not manufactured under sanitary conditions, those who prepare, process and distribute those foods should expect FDA enforcement action.”
The FDA said it may re-inspect the facility to ensure that these measures are being carried out and Green Hope will pay all costs of supervision, inspections, analyses, examinations and reviews associated with the consent decree.
“This company has a long history of not complying with federal statutes and regulations intended to protect the public health,” said Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
“Consumers expect, and deserve, that their food be safe to eat, and the Department of Justice will continue to take enforcement action against food manufacturers whose conduct can endanger public safety.”