Crime - Sacto 911

Injunction against tofu firm cites unsanitary conditions

A Sacramento company that prepares and distributes tofu will cease operations following a federal court injunction.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California entered a consent decree of permanent injunction against Wa Heng Dou-Fu & Soy Sauce Corp. and the firm’s owners, Peng Xiang “Martin” Lin and Yuexiao “Opal” Lin to prevent the distribution of adulterated and misbranded soy products, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.

The department filed a complaint June 17 at the request of the Food and Drug Administration. The defendants were accused of violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by “causing food that is held for sale after shipment of one or more of its components in interstate commerce to become adulterated and misbranded,” according to a news release. The complaint alleged that the defendants have an extensive history of operating their food manufacturing facilities under unsanitary conditions, failing to follow current good manufacturing practice requirements and misbranding their food products.

The company receives, prepares, processes, manufactures, packs, labels, holds and distributes soy products, including fried tofu, firm tofu, seasoned tofu and soy drinks, authorities said.

The complaint alleges that Martin Lin’s responsibilities include the firm’s daily operations, raw material purchases, facility and equipment maintenance and production schedule, while Opal Lin’s responsibilities include training employees and overseeing employee performance.

In conjunction with filing the complaint, authorities said, the Lins agreed to settle the case and to be bound by a permanent injunction that requires Wa Heng to cease all food preparation, manufacturing and distribution. If it seeks to resume these activities, it must implement remedial measures, notify the FDA of the measures taken and receive written notification that it appears to be in compliance with the injunction and the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The injunction affects facilities at 2451 26th Ave. in Sacramento and 1305 Furneaux Road in Olivehust.

According to the complaint, the defendants have a history of repeated violations. A 2015 inspection by the FDA documented at least three employees spraying pressurized water from a hose onto the production-area floor. The FDA isolated salmonella on the floor, and the spraying caused water to splash from the floor onto uncovered tofu and surfaces that came into contact with the tofu, such as presses and a filtration table. The same situation, authorities said, had been observed during a 2012 FDA inspection.

In addition, the FDA observed employees touching the bottoms of buckets and crates that had been on the floor and then touching tofu. The hand wash sink in the production room had no hot water because the valve had been turned off, and the sink was inaccessible because of crates in front of it. This, too, had been observed during the 2012 inspection, authorities said.

The most recent inspection also found that the defendants failed to appropriately clean and sanitize equipment, according to the complaint. The FDA observed spray hose nozzles, air valves, water valves and light switches that contained heavy residue, as well as a tofu cutting knife that was placed on top of a tofu press with greenish-brown buildup and then used to slice tofu.

The complaint further alleges that during the 2015 inspection, the FDA conducted environmental sampling of the facility, and five subsamples tested positive for pathogenic Salmonella Havana. The positive samples were taken from locations including a floor drain near a cooking tank, a caster wheel on a cart carrying tofu, and the floor between the packing and processing rooms, according to the complaint. The FDA isolated a nearly identical strain of salmonella during its 2011 and 2012 inspections, according to the complaint.

During the 2015 inspections, the FDA also collected samples of the company’s product labeling. The complaint alleges that the products were misbranded because, among other things, some of the firm’s soy products failed to include a label containing an accurate statement of the quantity of the contents in terms of weight, measure or numerical count.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy