U.S. marshals seized chili products in a Derry, N.M., warehouse owned by Duran and Sons LLC, enforcing a court order obtained by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
The warehouse was infested by rodents and insects, according to an FDA complaint. But company owner Carl Duran said the building was clean when the seizure happened Dec. 13.
Duran and Sons effectively shut down Nov. 17 when the New Mexico Environment Department put an embargo on all products from the 1,200 square-foot warehouse. An FDA inspection conducted in mid-November revealed the infestation, according to the agency.
Products stored there included chili pods, ground chili and crushed chili.
âAny recommendations the FDA had for my building, we completed within about two weeks,â Duran said. âThere were some issues I agreed with. When they pointed them out, I hadnât seen them before and we fixed the problems.â
FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey declined to respond to Duranâs comments, saying the case remains open.
âThe stuff the FDA condemned was 2008 product that was marked for destruction,â Duran said. âWe were going to throw it away. They happened to come in and inspect before we did. (Then) we were communicating with them, asking them to release it so we could throw it away.
âAnd this happened. We had U.S. marshals with their bulletproof vests on and everything.
I just feel it was overkill, because we had already agreed to destroy the product. The only thing thatâs changed is, itâs across the nation now. Nobodyâs going to want to buy anything with our name on it. This will probably put me out of business and 30 to 60 people out of work.â
Duran said a New York lab tested other, more recent product and found it free of contamination.
According to the FDA complaint, federal investigators found rodent nesting material and droppings on and around food in the warehouse; several rodent-gnawed food containers; and rodent urine stains. They also observed a live cat and birds; feces and urine from other animals; plus insects and their larvae, the complaint says.
âIt was not in that bad a shape in the first place,â Duran said. âBut one of the inspectors said (on Dec. 13) âYou really cleaned this up.â There was nothing else I could do to make sure the product was safe. Iâve got customers that weâve been dealing with for over 50 years. They wouldnât be coming back if we sold them bad product.â
Duran said heâll respond to a Department of Justice summons to appear in court within three weeks. âWeâll see if they release it to me to destroy the product,â he said.