By Bay City News Service
Food and herbs allegedly were seized from the Fremont warehouse of a natural food company on Tuesday, federal authorities announced Wednesday.
The items, which were confiscated by U.S. marshals, belong to the Fremont-based San Francisco Herb & Natural Foods Co.
The seizure was authorized in an order by U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Laporte, who acted in a forfeiture lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco by the U.S. attorney's office on Monday.
The lawsuit alleges that inspections by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the California Department of Public Health in July "revealed a widespread and active rodent infestation in the warehouse."
The lawsuit charges that inspectors saw live rodents on and around food, and found dead rodents throughout the warehouse and in food. They also found live and dead insects on food and food packages, and rodent droppings and apparent rodent nesting materials in food, according to the suit.
The affected products included bags of senna pods imported from India, according to the lawsuit.
Items stored in metal and glass containers were not seized, according to the FDA.
The lawsuit asks for a future court order allowing the destruction of the seized products. Under federal law, the items are now being held in U.S. custody and the owners have 30 days to assert a claim.
The company said in a statement, "San Francisco Herb & Natural Food Co. was surprised by the action taken yesterday by the FDA with respect to the seizure of its product but intends to work in good faith with the FDA to quickly resolve the remaining differences with the FDA about the seized product."
But if the company "cannot reach a quick and reasonable resolution with the FDA it intends to file the appropriate papers with the court to protect its rights with regards to the seized property," the statement said.
FDA Associate Commissioner Dara Corrigan said, "The violations at San Francisco Herb & Natural Food Company in Fremont are widespread and significant."
The FDA said that thus far, no illnesses have been associated with the company's products. The agency said that any illnesses or adverse events related to the use of the products should be reported to the FDA at (240) 402-2405.