FDA cites unsafe conditions at Tyson Foods plant

AP News
Posted: Dec 01, 2009 3:37 PM

U.S. health regulators have warned Tyson Foods about unsanitary conditions at a Texas plant that makes seafood soups.

In a warning letter posted online Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration said its inspectors found fish meat stored at dangerously high temperatures at the company's plant in Fort Worth.

Tyson stored fish and crab for about 18 hours between 40 and 55 degrees. The FDA said those products should be stored below 40 degrees to keep bacteria and toxins from growing on them.

Inspectors in August also cited the company for not documenting procedures for stopping bacterial growth.

Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson said the problems deal with documentation, not actual product safety.

"Our Fort Worth plant is clean and sanitary and the products produced there are safe to eat," company spokesman Gary Mickelson said in a statement. The shrimp and crab meat observed by FDA inspectors was not used in company products, he added.

Tyson responded to the FDA's complaints in September, arguing that its thawing procedures provided sufficient safety. FDA officials disagreed.

"Pathogen growth and potential toxin formulation is a hazard reasonably likely to occur in the absence of (temperature) control, consequently, the hazard needs to be addressed," according to the FDA letter, which is dated Nov. 13. The agency often waits several weeks before publicizing its warning letters.

Tyson said it has since updated its temperature control plan.

The FDA regularly issues warning letters to companies that do not follow regulations for manufacturing and marketing. The letters are not legally binding, but the agency can take companies to court if they are ignored.

Earlier this summer, new FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg announced several changes designed to speed the pace of warning letters. They included a streamlined review process for sending the letters and shorter deadlines for companies to respond.