Federal investigators found serious violations and unsanitary conditions, including the presence of listeria at Velvet Ice Cream’s manufacturing facility in Utica, according to a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The inspections occurred between Jan. 23 to Feb. 14.
During the 2019 inspection, nine environmental swabs collected by FDA were positive for L. monocytogenes, according to the letter.
Swabs collected during a 2018 inspection also revealed the presence of L. monocytogenes in nine swabs within the facility. In addition, swabs collected during our 2017 inspection revealed L. monocytogenes in three swabs within the facility.
These findings demonstrate that your sanitation procedures have been inadequate to significantly minimize or prevent L. monocytogenes in your facility. Once L. monocytogenes is established in a production area, personnel or equipment can facilitate the pathogen’s movement and contamination of food-contact surfaces and finished product. It is essential to identify the areas of the food processing plant where this organism is able to survive and grow to take such corrective actions as necessary to eradicate the organism by rendering these areas unable to support the survival and growth of the organism and prevent the organism from being re-established in such sites, Steven B. Barber, the director of Division 5 for the Office of Human and Animal Foods Operations East wrote in the letter.
Listeria monocytogenes is a disease-causing bacteria that can be found in moist environments, soil, water, decaying vegetation and animals, and can survive and even grow under refrigeration and other food preservation measures, according to the FDA.
When people eat food contaminated with L. monocytogenes, they may develop a disease called listeriosis. Mild symptoms may include a fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms may last from days to several weeks
FDA officials say Velvet Ice Cream officials are now required to establish a food safety plan to provide assurances that any hazards requiring a preventive control will be significantly minimized or prevented, according to the letter.
Velvet Ice Cream officials released the following statement related to the FDA’s findings:
Producing ice cream that is safe and of the highest quality has been the priority for Velvet Ice Cream and for our family for four generations. Our production facility in Utica maintains the highest standards for food safety, and our team of employees shares our commitment to assuring the safety of our ice cream products.
We understand concern about the recent letter issued by FDA, and we want to assure our valued customers that no ice cream products are affected. The ice cream we produce is regularly tested and confirmed to be free from Listeria and other foodborne bacteria. No Velvet ice cream product has ever tested positive.
It is important to know that no recall is taking place, and that our teams took swift action to address this issue. Our corrective measures included a comprehensive cleaning and sanitation of our plant, retraining of our employees in proper food safety procedures, hiring an independent food safety expert, and investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in new construction and equipment upgrades.
The trust of our ice cream lovers is of the utmost importance to our family, and we will do all that is needed to produce our ice cream under the highest standards for food safety excellence.
Click here for more information about the FDA’s findings.