Schwebel's warned over listeria, rodents, flies at Hebron facility
Editor's note: This article has been updated to include a response from Schwebel's.
Schwebel's, A staple Youngstown bakery, has been sent a warning letter by the FDA regarding unhealthy and unsanitary conditions at their Hebron, Ohio facility.
The letter was sent to the company on June 9, 2023 and made public on June 27th, and details a wide variety of sanitary concerns.
In the letter, Steven Barber of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Human and Animal Foods Operations tells Schwebel's that "bread rolls (buns) processed in your facility are adulterated within the meaning of [the United States Code] in that they were prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health."
This contamination, according to the letter, stems from inspection results over the previous year that showed the presence of listeria, rodents, and flies within the facility.
The report discloses two bacteria tests, performed on December 16th, 2022 and January 23, 2023, which both yielded positive results for listeria, a bacteria which can lead to serious illness, called listeriosis. According to the CDC, an estimated 1,600 people per year contract listeriosis, and of those, 260 cases are fatal.
According to the FDA, listeriosis is most dangerous to pregnant women and newborns, the elderly, and people who with weakened immune systems.
The letter also reports finding apparent rodent excreta pellets (AREPs), also known as rodent feces, within feet of food materials, and in one instance, just one inch away from a pallet containing an ingredient used in the buns.
FDA inspectors observed at least one live mouse between pallets of pure granulated sugar used in Schwebel's products. Inspectors were also notified by the pest control operator hired by Schwebel's that "eight incidents of rodent activity were documented in the shipping area, tray washing room, boiler room, and break room."
No details are provided on what said rodent activity entails.
The report also says that "fruit flies too numerous to count" were present in an area storing bulk ingredient containers. Fruit flies were also found on food-contact surfaces of those containers, which were described to FDA inspectors as "clean."
Four flour beetles were also observed by FDA inspectors on bags of sugar, where said ingredients are staged for the mixer.
Another section of the letter notes that equipment was not properly cleaned and decontaminated from allergens, nor labeled for allergen contact. As such, sesame seeded and non-sesame seeded buns were mixed using the same equipment without being cleaned between uses, creating a "reasonably foreseeable hazard" due to allergen contamination.
The letter ends by telling Schwebel's that it is "not intended to be an all-inclusive list of violations that exist at your facility or in connection with your products."
It also does not mention if any distributed food should be assumed unsafe for consumption.
Schwebel's has 15 days to respond to the letter, detailing all corrective action taken to remediate the issues outlined above or a timeline on which Schwebels plans to take corrective action.
Schwebel's issued the following statement to 21 News about the FDA letter:
"The report following the FDA’s February inspection was very upsetting to us, and we immediately made several major corrective adjustments to restore our Hebron facility to the cleanliness for which Schwebel Baking Company has been known for decades. We would like to reassure our customers that all of our products are completely safe, and we are pleased that the FDA has not ordered a recall of any of our products. We have communicated to the FDA about our corrective actions, and will continue to engage with the agency until this issue is resolved."