You know when people say, “Oh god, this smells awful, here, smell it,” just so that they don’t have to experience the terrible sensation alone? That’s me, right now, with this report from Food Safety News. I just can’t sit in this thing alone. It’s too much. I’m not even going to attempt to pepper in some context about foodborne illness or factory closures or anything. I just have to get this out.
Here are the worst things in this report about a food producer in New Mexico called Rubens Inc., which has been put on notice by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The F.D.A. cited “unresolved violations documented in 2005, 2009, 2016 and 2018,” so yeah, it’s an ongoing issue. We wouldn’t normally report on some random company’s health code violations, but this sucker, and FSN’s admirably frank coverage of it, is so stomach-churning that it can’t be denied.
I would say they’re ranked, below, from least to most upsetting, but it’s all pretty bad—and the repeated mention of foods I love just doesn’t help, at all.
- “Apparent rodent like droppings were also observed in the corners of the dry storage area. This was a repeat observation from the inspections in 2016 and 2005.” Generations of rat shit. Generations.
- Hoses used to fill food-related equipment were left on the floor, in or near “dirty, pooling water.” This was first noted in 2009.
- Apparently, they “did not maintain employee restrooms,” which sounds like an understatement: “They found filth, urine odors, discolored hand-washing sinks, and no toilet paper in the women’s room.” That word, filth, that’s doing a lot of heavy lifting. This was also noted in that 2009 letter.
Let’s take a break for a picture of a two huskies yawning, just for a breather.
And we’re back.
- “Chiles fell onto the dirty floor and were picked up by employees and placed into the rinse/cooling tank with other roasted chiles.”
- Another chance to ruin chiles for me, and you: “Employees touched the outside of large nonfood grade white [redacted by FDA] trash cans covered in a black mold type debris which contained rinsed/cooled chiles. The employees then peeled the chiles without washing their hands after touching the black mold type debris.” Emphasis mine.
- More chiles, this time uncovered chiles stored directly beneath a patch of ceiling that was covered in condensation and flaking paint.
- “We observed a strong moldy type odor in the walk-in refrigerator near a puddle of white liquid on the floor,” near uncovered masa.
- A general lack of maintenance and cleanliness, including equipment caked in old food, paint flaking off pipes and walls in the production area, lots of leaking stuff, a dirty hand-washing station that leaked all over the floor in the production area, black debris and grime all over everything, and missing and broken lights, which was maybe a blessing for the people who worked there but which is not so great for food safety.
- Officials saw an employee push an uncovered rack of chiles (why?!) into direct contact with a curtain “which appeared to be soiled with red chile debris and grime.”
- “We observed clear mailing tape used to secure a... funnel to a dirty handle. This is used to convey the posole into the final packaging bags.”
And that is all extremely bad. But there’s something missing there. What is it? Oh, yes: fecundity. Look, here’s a baby goat’s first steps!
Direct from Food Safety News:
“. . . Live and dead apparent cockroaches, spiders, ants, and bugs, in various stages of lifecycle were observed in the receiving, processing, dry storage, restrooms and office areas,” according to an FDA warning letter sent Nov. 6, 2018, to company president David Garcia.
“Additionally, pests were observed crawling across floors, up walls, in and out of crevices in the walls and floors, on the ceiling, trapped in mailing tape near light switches, at the hand-washing station, on food contact surfaces, on a conveyor belt, and on the ceiling directly above the [redacted by FDA] grinder and [redacted by FDA] fryer.”
Just some cockroaches and bug pupae, riding a conveyor belt. Sorry about your lunch.