U.S. Marshals Seize 25,000 Bags of Spices from Florida Company Due to Alleged Unsanitary Conditions

Miami's Lyden Spice Corporation had failed both state and federal inspections.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Marshals Service acted on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and seized more than 25,000 bags and boxes of spices and food additives from a Miami spice company, due to the insanitary conditions that the items were being stored in. The products that were taken from Lyden Spice Corporation's storage facility —including crushed red chili, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and sesame seeds — will be destroyed or otherwise disposed of.

The company's south Florida warehouse was inspected by the FDA in June, and the agency's investigators noted "rodent feces too numerous to count" on pallets and containers of food; "evidence of rodent gnawing and urine" on food containers; and rodents' nesting materials were discovered between pallets of stored food. The agency also discovered "apparent bird droppings" in food storage areas.

Rows of jars with various spices
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Following that inspection, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on the FDA's behalf. According to the FDA, the conditions in the facility meant that the products were "adulterated" and, as a result, must be forfeited to the United States.

In the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA established several definitions for "adulterated" food, including food that "has been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby it may have been rendered injurious to health." The agency also notes that, even if the food itself might be safe to consume, it can still be considered adulterated "if it passed through an area that is insanitary and that could have contaminated the food."

"The FDA plays a critical role in safeguarding the U.S. food supply and helping to ensure that our food is not contaminated at any point during its journey along the supply chain," Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., said in a statement. "We take our responsibility seriously and will continue to take action against those who threaten the safety and quality of the products we regulate as a necessary step to protect the public health and the safety of Americans. The widespread insanitary conditions found at the Lyden Spice Corporation are disturbing and won't be tolerated."

The Miami Herald reports that Lyden Spice Corporation has used that facility for product storage for the past two years. In addition to the deplorable conditions described by federal inspectors, Lyden has failed four Florida state inspections this year. In March, the Florida Department of Agriculture noted widespread rodent droppings that were "too numerous to count," as well as "some bagged products such as dried parsley flakes nibbled, and some packaging backs frayed."

According to its website, Lyden Spice says that the company is "well known for carrying quality products" that are "sourced directly from farmers and growers." Its inventory includes food ingredients like MSG, citric acid, and stevia; jarred fruits and vegetables; and a range of dried spices including black pepper, cinnamon, dried hibiscus flowers, and turmeric.

Food & Wine has reached out to Lyden Spice for comment but as of this writing, we have not yet received a response.

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