Federal Food and Drug Administration inspection reports reveal many problems with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams current and former production facility. Jeni’s plans to re-open tomorrow after a month-long voluntary shut down and recall which followed the discovery of listeria in some of its ice cream.
The FDA found some problems in 2008 and a long list of potential violations in an inspection this spring.
A 2008 FDA inspection of Jeni’s former facility on Chesapeake Avenue found a half dozen areas of concern. Most of problems involved rodents.
Inspectors found rodent droppings in storage areas and along a wall in a production area. The inspectors found a live rodent in a glue trap next to a cleaning supply room. The report cites Jeni’s for failing to do enough to keep pests out.
Company founder Jeni Britton Bauer says the firm quickly addressed the issues.
“It is my understanding that these were in the garage, and we weren’t addressing that, so that was an easy change for us to make,” said Bauer on an appearance on All Sides with Ann Fisher this morning.
Inspectors also found workers were not following adequate personal cleanliness.
Prompted by the discovery of listeria in Jeni’s ice cream in Nebraska, the FDA conducted an eight-day inspection.
Inspectors were able to watch the plant in action. The FDA found most of its concerns on April 21 – two days before Jeni’s shut down and recalled its products.
Examiners found employees and managers failed to maintain sanitary conditions. They found managers failed to assure good manufacturing practices. They found Jeni’s workers failed to store raw materials in a manner that protects against contamination.
Bauer says the report looks worse than reality.
“No I wasn’t surprised by the findings," Bauer said. "They are not as shocking when you are in our kitchen. It’s not like our ceilings are caving in, we’re talking cracks in our floors, small violations. They are not as big as they seem.”
The FDA cited Jeni’s for not having an environmental sampling testing program, which many food production facilities have.
Bauer says they did not have the system because Ohio law does not require it. But she stresses they have always tested their product.
“We did have in-house ice cream testing program and we also sent out samples all the time and once a month through the ag. Department," Bauer said. "So we had a sampling program, it just wasn’t an environmental program, which we do now.”
Jeni’s prides itself on creating a positive workplace for its employees but the FDA found fault with one component. Jeni’s allowed its employees to maintain a garden in the front of the plant, but the FDA said Jeni’s lacked controls or procedures to prevent staffers from contaminating the plant when they returned to work.
The FDA found the Michigan Avenue facility was too small to maintain adequate flow of employees and equipment through the plant for the maintenance of sanitary conditions. The firm has expanded sales in recent years, but Jeni’s maintains its Michigan Avenue plant is sufficient.
“I don’t think we’ve outgrown the facility just yet. We’re a tight run ship anyway. It’s not as crowded as it seems, you know we have stations for everything. If you’ve ever been in any of the top restaurants of the world, you see similar kinds of spacing and stations. We now have course have thinned all of that out and we have other partners helping us out and that’s allowing us to do that.”
Jeni’s says it has spent about $200,000 to upgrade its production facility and it has moved the processing of fresh fruit and vegetables to a separate location.