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FDA Warns Kellogg Over Contaminated Cookie Factory

A sign marks the parking space for head elf Ernie Keebler at the Keebler corporate offices in Illinois back in 2004. Kellogg bought Keebler in 2001. i i

hide captionA sign marks the parking space for head elf Ernie Keebler at the Keebler corporate offices in Illinois back in 2004. Kellogg bought Keebler in 2001.

Scott Olson/Getty Images
A sign marks the parking space for head elf Ernie Keebler at the Keebler corporate offices in Illinois back in 2004. Kellogg bought Keebler in 2001.

A sign marks the parking space for head elf Ernie Keebler at the Keebler corporate offices in Illinois back in 2004. Kellogg bought Keebler in 2001.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Elfin magic? Not so much, actually, at a Kellogg factory that makes Keebler and Famous Amos cookies.

The Food and Drug Administration just slapped Kellogg for alleged quality lapses at a Augusta, Georgia, plant in a warning letter that was released today.

The big problem, according to findings by FDA inspectors, is contamination of the place with Listeria monocytogenes, a germ that can cause serious illness and sometimes death. The old, the very young and people with weak immune systems are at greatest risk.

In a statement emailed to Shots, a company spokeswoman said: "The safety of our food is of utmost importance to Kellogg." She said the company takes the "situation very seriously," while noting the agency didn't "identify specific concerns with the food." Kellogg is taking "aggressive actions," including thorough cleaning and expanded testing at the facility, she said.

The listeria appears to be a stubborn problem at the factory. In the words of the agency:

The presence of a persistent strain of L. monocytogenes in your facility between January 2010 and February 2011 is significant in that it demonstrates that your cleaning and sanitation efforts were inadequate to remove this organism.

The FDA's letter says the test results suggest the bacteria many have been spread throughout the factory and become "established in niche areas."

But wait, there's more. FDA inspectors also found pools of water in all sorts of places they shouldn't have been, and there were drips from pipes and fixtures that could potentially contaminate food.

Then there were the flies. In February, FDA investigators saw about 20 flies zooming out of a drain and "making contact with food contact surfaces." A swarm of 30 flies was seen buzzing around a flour mixer. And, when the back panel of the mixer was removed, another 80 flies were seen.

The company is no stranger to FDA scrutiny. In 2009, the FDA also faulted Kellogg for listeria problems at a different Georgia plant that makes Eggo frozen waffles.

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