Fortune Cookie Factory Was Overrun With Vermin, FDA Reports

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You might want to think twice before you open the next fortune cookie you get -- there may be something far less lucky in it than a piece of paper offering pithy words of wisdom.

When inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration visited the fortune cookie manufacturing plant in Atlanta owned by the Well Luck Co., a New Jersey company that distributes Asian food nationwide, they made some horrific discoveries. During the two-week inspection this summer, which resulted in a warning letter being issued, FDA inspectors found live and dead mice, rats and "roach-like insects."

The FDA reported that the facility was not taking basic precautions to prevent pests, and was failing to follow many food hygiene guidelines. The FDA noted in its Sept. 17 letter that the manufacturer had not responded to requests to address the alleged violations and warned, "You should take prompt actions to correct the violations cited in this letter. Failure to promptly and adequately correct these violations may result in FDA initiation of regulatory actions, including but not limited to, seizure of your products or injunction."

Rats Ripped Open Bags of Flour

"Unpackaged fortune cookies were observed sitting directly on the floor of the fortune cookie packaging room," the FDA letter said. "Without any barrier between the warehouse and the fortune cookie packaging room, rodents in the warehouse area have direct access into the food processing areas of the facility where they may contaminate the food, food packaging materials and food processing equipment."

In its warning letter, the FDA said it had discovered bags of flour that had been ripped open by rodents and that both rodent feces and urine were found in the food manufacturing facility. Food and food products were on floors all around the plant, the FDA said.

"The violations, which include evidence of active rodent activity, render the products held at your facility adulterated ... in that they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health," the letter to Well Luck CEO Chris T. Li said.

Well Luck officials did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the FDA inspection and letter.

Tainted Ingredients

A significant amount of ingredients at the plant were tainted, according to the FDA letter. It's not clear how long the facility had been in this condition. But in one three-day period, FDA inspections offered a laundry list of locations it found live and dead rodents inside.

The FDA letter gave plant general manager Khong H. Khoo what may be viewed as a remarkably backhanded compliment when it noted that during the inspection, he "voluntarily destroyed 47 bags of rodent-defiled wheat flour." Meanwhile, inspectors said they found mice next to 2,200 bags of jasmine rice stored 15 feet from a trash compactor.

As if the rodent problem wasn't bad enough, FDA inspectors described a major insect infestation. "FDA Investigators observed live roach-like insects too numerous to count along the east wall of the fortune cookie processing room directly behind the ice machine and adjacent to the ... stand mixers in use during production."

The FDA also credited the factory with cleaning a section of plant while inspectors were there, "to remove the rodent excreta pellets."

And, in a freezer in the warehouse, inspectors said they saw "condensate" dripping on food, including popsicles, wontons, dumplings and dim sum.
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