from Issue #1, April 2016, page # 31
by: Need Food
Our family operates a salsa and jam manufacturing business. We buy products in large quantities to use in our cooking and processing. Many of these products such as peaches and tomatoes come in metal gallon cans.
An inspector from the State Department of Agriculture regularly comes by to check on our operation. One morning last summer, he arrived just as we were finishing the first batch of 180 cases of product. During his inspection he discovered fruit flies in our warehouse.
We had been totally unaware of any fruit flies until that morning. Upon checking into where the fruit flies were coming from, we discovered that a shipment of peaches from California we had received three or four weeks earlier was the culprit. Some of the cans had ruptured because of poor processing and some of them had been punctured while unloading them.
It was not like fruit flies were swarming all over the plant—we estimate there were only two or three dozen fruit flies loose. The inspector wanted to put a hold on all shipments from our plant until the product we had run that morning could be tested—possibly two or three weeks until the test results came back. He took samples with him and then left.
We shut down the whole plant. We threw out thirty gallon cans of peaches. We cleaned everything. That afternoon a fumigation service came and fumigated the whole plant. The whole cleaning operation took us the rest of the day. I called the State Commissioner of Agriculture and he assured me that we were free to continue shipping all our products except the single batch we had processed that morning.
The next morning the inspector and a federal observer returned to check on things. There were no fruit flies to be found. But he carefully inspected everything and found a few food particles on some obscure gears. These gears never came in contact with any food that we processed. We promptly cleaned the gears and then he allowed us to resume normal operations. However, the inspector adamantly refused to release the 180 cases—$2500 worth—we had processed yesterday, until the test results came back.
Several weeks later the test results came back. They found no fruit flies, but instead they found some squash bugs. We were very perplexed by their find. We had never had any squash bugs in our plant and we believe that if squash bugs were really in the product they must have been in one of our purchased ingredients.
Everyone knows the product was safely heated beyond the pasteurization level and there is no health danger to the public. Furthermore, the FDA tolerance level for insects in food is a certain amount above zero before action is taken. We discussed these things with the inspector. Now he and his superior say it is not about the bugs, but about contamination found in the plant. They want the product condemned and destroyed. Now, many months later the 180 cases of perfectly good product are still sitting in the warehouse.
What should Brother Processor do?
- Threaten to sue the Department of Agriculture.
- Destroy the 180 cases on hand.
- Give the product away.
- Pray that God will bless the inspectors.
- Pray that God will change the hearts of the inspectors.