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CNBC reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has "slapped" Whole Foods with a letter warning the retailer that its food preparation facility in Massachusetts has been found to have "serious violations" of federal food safety regulations that must be addressed immediately.

According to the story, "FDA inspectors reportedly found various food products, including mushroom quesadillas, chives, beets and couscous that were exposed in areas where condensate was leaking from ceiling joints, doorways, pipes and fans. In addition, the FDA cited that Whole Foods employees failed to sanitize food prep stations, did not change gloves or wash hands between tasks and did not take caution to prevent cleaning supply fluid from touching ready-to-eat products."

The FDA apparently did an initial inspection last March but subsequently found Whole Foods' response to its findings to be "unacceptable."

"Your response includes retraining of employees as a corrective action for most of the observed violations but you failed to mention adequate supervision over your specialized food processing operations and how retraining will ensure sustained compliance," the FDA wrote in the new warning letter. "We do not consider your response acceptable because you failed to provide documentation for our review, which demonstrates that all your noted corrective actions have been effectively implemented."

The story notes that Whole Foods "has faced backlash in recent years due to concerns about slowing sales, health scares and accusations that the grocery chain was overcharging customers." Meanwhile, other chains have encroached on its prepared foods business, eroding whatever market share advantage sit may have had.

Whole Foods reportedly has not commented on the FDA accusations.
KC's View:
Hard to imagine that Whole Foods would take its eye off the ball to this extent, allowing such an important part of its image to fall into such disrepair. Granted, it has other things on its mind, like the launching of its 365 chain. But not paying close attention to fundamental building blocks of its business model, and making sure that things are not just up to code, but beyond reproach, would be a serious mistake that new store formats will not be able to fix.